Lack of basic facilities in Govt schools affecting girls’ health, education
SRINAGAR: During last three decades, India has worked hard to build a school in every village. Walk into any community, no matter how remote it is, you will see a government school for sure. With nearly 11 lakh primary schools, at present we have the largest government school system across the world. School enrolment is close to universal regardless of gender, race or religion. In a country as vast as ours, with complex geographical areas, it is really a huge achievement. It has been seen in many parts of country like the Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir that schools usually have adequate class-rooms, potable water supply and toilets for students but maintenance is a challenge due to inadequate budget. In Valley, many girl students of a government schools have to skip their classes for 4 to 5 days every month during special days, due to lack of proper and clean toilets in school. There are many government schools in the valley which either don’t have a facility of separate toilet and some don’t have a toilet at all. “Our school functions from two rooms in a rented building. It doesn’t have a washroom, so we use common toilet of the building, which is very uncomfortable. In such conditions, how can we take care of our hygiene?” a girl student informed. A teacher working in a school said, “Girl students have to struggle to avail of basic facilities at schools, which pushes many to drop out.”
Few days back, the Directorate of School Education Kashmir (DSEK) announced that it will distribute sanitary napkins in government educational institutes among all female students of 8th to 12th standard. “It is a good step but how the department can go with the move when basic facilities are not in place. How can we proceed with the promotion and awareness of menstrual hygiene when we don’t have a washroom? For menstrual hygiene management, separate toilets for girls should be the priority,” she added.
According to the survey by the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2022, only 53 per cent of the schools in UT have a provision of separate toilet blocks for girl students. As per national survey, 14 per cent of the schools have constructed toilet blocks which often remain locked or are non-functional. “The toilets are not functioning due to lack of proper staff to clean the same. Most of the schools are run by teaching staff only and there is no cleaning staff. We can’t ask cooks to maintain toilets as they are hired for cooking purpose only,” said a teacher.
Improvement in government school infrastructure is need of the hour, with a special focus on Information and Communication Technology and basic facilities like separate washrooms for girls and boys. Moreover, there is as severe shortage of class fourth staff in Government schools, which needs to be filled at the earliest.