10 facts about water, sanitation, and hygiene in Indian schools

10 facts about water, sanitation, and hygiene in Indian schools

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hygiene in Indian schools

The Convention on the Rights of the Child says that every child must have free primary school education. WASH in schools supports the global right to education and health and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. This helps more children go to primary school, lowers child death rates, boosts gender equality, and improves water and sanitation.

What is WASH in schools?

  • Safe water for drinking, handwashing after using the toilet and before eating or cooking, and personal hygiene. Enough water for cleaning school buildings, toilets, dishes, etc. 
  • Toilets that are separate for girls and boys, friendly for children, well-made, well-kept, and suitable for different cultures. 
  • Hygiene education in curriculum, wall-paintings, events, competitions, community, and home activities. 
  • Encouraging personal and school hygiene. Ways to prevent and reduce WASH-related diseases. 
  • Regular health exams, deworming programs, and nutrition supplements for better hygiene. 

WHO/UNICEF says that schools with good WASH should have enough clean water, toilets that are safe and separate for girls and boys, and hand-washing facilities with soap and water. School equipment should be good for all ages of children including the young ones, ones with physical challenges and girls who have periods. But most schools don’t have these facilities. Many schools in poor countries don’t have WASH services, which harms health and school attendance.

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Facts as per the survey conducted by UNICEF in 347 schools across the country

1. Only 74% of the schools that have drinking water facilities have improved them. Improved drinking water facilities mean that they are protected from contamination and accessible to all students and staff. They are important for health and education because they prevent waterborne diseases and dehydration that can affect children’s well-being and learning.

2. Water quality is still a big problem, especially in rural areas where many schools do not have enough water treatment facilities to check for harmful substances like iron, arsenic, or fluoride. These substances can cause serious health problems such as anemia, skin lesions, or dental fluorosis that can impair children’s growth and development.

3. Only six out of ten schools have toilets that work. Another study of WASH facilities in schools shows similar results. One in ten rural schools does not have any toilets at all. Where toilets are available only half of them are usable. Toilets are essential for hygiene and dignity especially for girls and children with disabilities who need privacy and safety. Without toilets they may face harassment or abuse or avoid going to school altogether.

4. 11.5% of rural schools did not have separate toilets for girls; and in some of the schools that did, 10.5% of them were locked and 11.7% were locked and unusable. This affects girls’ attendance and participation in school activities especially when they have their periods. They may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable or lack sanitary materials to manage their menstruation.

5. Around 50% of the teachers surveyed had access to toilets. Teachers need toilets as well as students for their own health and comfort. They also need to set an example for good hygiene practices among their students.

6. Cleaning staff were available in only 45% of the schools. Cleaning staff are needed to keep WASH facilities in good condition. They help prevent dirt, germs, and odors that can make WASH facilities unpleasant or unsafe to use.

7. Of the 50% of schools that provide sanitary napkins only 25% provided disposal options for girls. Over 60% of the girls went home during menstruation. Sanitary napkins and disposal options are important for menstrual hygiene management. They help girls stay clean, healthy, and confident during their periods. Without them girls may use unhygienic materials or methods that can cause infections or discomfort.

8. Only 53% of schoolchildren washed their hands with soap. Handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to prevent WASH-related diseases and infections such as diarrhea, worms, or respiratory illnesses. It also helps protect against COVID-19 which can spread through contact with contaminated surfaces or droplets.

9. None of the schools that have drinking water facilities had systems for testing water quality. Testing water quality is necessary to ensure safe drinking water for school children. It helps detect any contamination or pollution that can harm children’s health.

10. Nearly 25% of the schools did not teach about hygiene and did not have water and soap facilities. Hygiene education is important for raising awareness and changing behaviours among school children. It helps them understand why WASH is important, how to practice it properly and how to influence others at home or in the community.

School-age population (thousands) 369 667
% pre-primary 20
% primary 32
% secondary 48
Unicef survey
Fig show the survey done by UNICEF (India 2021)

Effective delivery of interventions is required to ensure access to WASH in schools. When we observe, the point of view percentage of indicators is not up to the mark. Hence, special efforts need to be implemented in schools and also on the maintenance of WASH in schools.