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| Last Updated:19/09/2014

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The link between sanitation and schooling

The Hindu, 19 September 2014


In addition to adequate provision of funds for cleaning, sanitation training and maintenance of toilets in schools, the issue of fixing accountability must also be addressed


The revival of the issue of toilets in schools has brought to the fore a discussion that has for long existed among educationists, with varying positions occupying centre stage at different times. A couple of decades ago, when the deplorable state of education began to be noticed, the importance of toilets was highlighted, and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) — the government’s flagship programme for universalisation of elementary education — included a specific provision for separate toilets for girls and boys. But soon after, a shift in focus to learning outcomes made toilets a dirty word as far as education was concerned, so much so that the emphasis on infrastructure, and toilets in particular, was held almost responsible for taking attention away from “learning.” Arguments were made that no correlation could be found between the presence of toilets and learning levels of children in school; therefore toilets were an unnecessary expense. Others claimed that since most poor rural children did not have toilets at home, they would not miss them in school either. What they needed was education, not toilets. The lack of sanitary habits among people who are not used to toilets and the issue of who would keep the toilets clean have also been part of the ongoing debate. Read more....