Eleven-year-old Monika Rani is one of the eight children of a couple working on daily wages. She is fortunate that her parents, Vijay Pal and Shakuntala, send her to the Government Girls Middle School at Salaheri village in Nuh town of Haryana’s Mewat district, 20km from Delhi’s international airport. Like many of her friends in Class 7, Monika also wants to become a school teacher but isn’t sure if she will be able to become one. In fact, most girls in her school don’t make it to Class 10. They drop out not due to academic reasons but because there is no toilet facility in their school.
When the Hindustan Times team visited her school, a confident Monika, who was joined by classmates Sadika (12), Mufida (11), Salarya (11), Shahista (11), Manaj (11) and Asma (12), shared how girls like her on the verge of attaining puberty face the daily challenge of answering nature’s call during school hours. They are either forced to skip classes and go out in the open or rush to a home nearby to use the toilet. They say girls senior to them missed school during their menstrual cycle.
The HT team did not encounter any girls studying in the school’s Classes 9 and 10. Incidentally, the school is a stone’s throw away from the Nuh mini-secretariat, where the offices of the deputy commissioner and district education officer offices are located.
TOILETS FOR STAFF, NOT STUDENTS
Pointing to a decrepit structure at a distance, Monika says, “Those rooms are filled with garbage and so dirty that they are beyond use. They are kept locked yet the stench is unbearable.” The school is surrounded by wild growth and the girls venture out in groups to ease themselves, while their friends stand guard.
Monika says there are two clean toilets for teachers, one for the male and the other for female staff, but no student is allowed to venture near them.
Asked if she had raised the issue with her parents, she says: “They know and our village sarpanch also knows but no one listens to them. Recently, villagers even stole the doors of some toilets in our school.” She says the children have taken up the issue with the education authorities who visit the school once in a year but in vain.
Besides toilets, the school does not have a drinking water facility either. “We bring our own water bottles. There are no fans in our school. Children keep falling sick and many avoid coming to school,” she adds.
CONSERVATIVE SOCIETY, GOVT APATHY TO BLAME
Despite beating other Haryana districts, including neighbouring Gurgaon (854) in the child sex ratio with 903 for 1,000 boys as per the 2011 census, Muslim-dominated Mewat stands nowhere to the Millennium City in terms of education due to its conservative society and government apathy.
It is common perception that if a government teacher gets transferred to Mewat, he/she either goes on leave or tries hard to seek a transfer as early as possible. Those who do join duty prefer to commute to Mewat from Gurgaon district. The district is infamous for crime and is known to lack basic amenities even at the district headquarter level.
A girl is frowned upon if she remains unmarried till Class 10 as most girls are married off early and seldom pursue education.