Himani Verma, a Class 4 student of the government primary school at Moolkoti, 15 km from here, is angry and scared. In the absence of a toilet in school, she says she is forced to go to the nearby forest with other students as a staff member keeps a watch from a distance.
“No one takes us seriously. When I told my parents, they asked me to adjust like the others. I feel scared going away from the group in the jungle. But do I have a choice?” says Himani. It is a routine for the students to go out in the forest for an hour daily.
Himani’s experience exposes the Himachal government’s tall claims of making areas under panchayats open-defecation free. Sakshi Verma, who is a year senior to Himani, says: “I know of schools with separate toilets for girls and boys. I would have shifted to the one at Deothi that has separate toilets but it is too far from my house.”
Safety at stake
Students are taken about 50 metres in the forest adjoining the school at Moolkoti. According to sources, most of the time they venture out on their own and are sometimes accompanied by the school peon.
At the Government Primary School at Kanda village nearby, children share the toilet as the one meant for boys is closed for repair. Two toilets built by the panchayat were in a dilapidated condition with work halted midway. The school authorities say they have raised the issue with the panchayat butin vain. Erratic water supply in these villages makes things worse.
An education department official requesting anonymity says that in Shimla district, several schools are without toilets. “These are government schools near the capital town. If things are so bad here you can imagine the plight of children in far-flung areas,” he says. When contacted, Himachal Pradesh education secretary AR Rizvi shot back: “What should I do if there are no toilets (in schools for girls)?”
Education department officials cite topographical conditions, insufficient funds and even slow construction of toilets by the panchayat department for the situation.
Facts and figures
Total schools: 15,219
Schools without toilets for girls: 460
Worst district - Shimla
Total schools: 2,289
Schools without toilets for girls: 264
Best district – Hamirpur
Total schools: 769
Schools without toilets for girls: 0
Next: Restless in Reasi, J&K
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