She is a student of Class 11 at Government Model Senior Secondary School in Chandigarh’s posh Sector 10 but when it comes to using the school toilet, her plight is similar to that of girls studying in the worst districts of Punjab and Haryana. Granted that Chandigarh enjoys an enviable position of every school having a separate toilet for girls, as per the Centre’s survey, poor maintenance compounded by shortage of cleaning staff and high enrolment have rendered the facility unusable.
The student, who did not want to be identified, says the stench from the school toilets is unbearable and many girls like her avoid using it due to the unhygienic conditions.
UT plans on paper
In fact, the union territory education department’s survey last year had also mentioned the lack of cleanliness in government schools. A plan was chalked out to add new toilets and repair old ones in the 112 Chandigarh schools. According to sources, the education department sent the proposal based on the survey report to the engineering department. A year on, nothing has changed on the ground for neither did the engineering department start building toilets nor did the education department follow up the case.
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So when the HT team visited various government schools over the past week, it was exposed to the stinking reality. Toilets on the ground floor in the Government High School in Sector 52 are in a mess. A toilet in Government Model Senior Secondary School (GMSSS), Sector 10, which is adjoining the principal’s office has water seeping onto toilet seats, while the one near the school auditorium is not fit for use.
GMSSS, Karsan, toilets are not marked for girls or boys and can’t boast of even a dustbin. The Government Senior Secondary School in Sector 45 is dingy and kicks up stink, making it difficult to attend classes on the floor. Tejinder Kaur, the school principal, admits toilets need to be renovated and cites shortage of manpower for the unhygienic conditions.
The Government Model Senior Secondary School in Sector 19 has toilets boys and girls on alternate floors. This is architecturally flawed as ideally both ends of a floor should have a separate set of toilets for girls and boys. With over 2,000 students, the existing infrastructure is under pressure and hygiene compromised.
Shortage of toilets, cleaning staff
Due to high enrolment, government schools in Chandigarh are woefully short of toilets both for boys and girls. The UT education department had in its own survey found that government schools were needed to provide 105 additional toilets — 53 for girls and 52 for boys, besides nearly 25 staff toilets.
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The UT schools face a shortage of cleaning staff. Most of them are hired on contract and paid between Rs 6,000 to Rs 7,000 per month. “Each floor must have at least one sweeper but here the entire school with over 3,000 students has only six sweepers,” says a teacher at Government High School, Mauli colony, not willing to be named.
Karsan school head Prem Kaur says, “Though the department provides additional sweepers whenever the schools send their request, there have to be periodic reviews on the requirement as per the enrolment and infrastructure.”
Local teachers’ association president Swarn Singh Kamboj says sanitation is not a priority with schools and the education department. “Toilets for staff are not clean either. We need to prioritise cleanliness,” he adds.
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