While only 1.9% government schools in rural Jharkhand do not have toilets, students of 35.3% government schools in these areas are debarred from using toilets, which are despite having the facility in their campus, the latest Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER) has said, highlighting the lackadaisical approach of the government in maintaining the infrastructure they invest in.
In 2016, the state government claimed that almost all 40,000 odd government schools in Jharkhand had toilet facilities. However, due to a lack of sweepers and poor water connectivity, toilets in several village schools remain locked, say activists.
“In a majority of the schools, the school management committees are directly responsible for maintaining the toilets. The government has constructed toilets, but there is no mechanism to keep them useable,” said Manoj Kumar, member, State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR).
A lot has been happening in Jharkhand over the usability of toilets in government schools here.
The Jharkhand high court too on January 18 initiated a PIL, suo motu, and deputed court managers to inspect all schools in their districts and file a report on their infrastructure with video proof.
The court also asked for specific information from managers on the condition of school toilets and allied facilities, including availability of running water and sweepers.
The situation, however, has improved significantly over the years, says ASER. In 2010, the survey had found that over 55% government schools in rural Jharkhand did not have useable toilets. After the education department’s rigorous efforts in constructing toilets in each of the schools in the past couple of years under Swacchta Mission, the percentage of schools without useable toilets came down to 35.3.
Jharkhand Education Project Council (JEPC) director Mukesh Kumar said that the education department was planning to institutionalise a proper system for maintenance of government school toilets.
“At present, the SMCs are doing this job. We are, however, planning necessary changes in the process to ensure usability of toilets in all the schools,” Kumar said. The SMCs, he said, appoint ad hoc sweepers to keep toilets clean.
The state government had constructed more than 18,000 toilets in different government schools in 2015, but sufficient measures for maintenance weren’t taken.
Local villagers and slum dwellers in many parts of the state have been reportedly trespassing into the school premises and soiling the toilets after classes are over, leaving them unusable.
“We had requested local villagers not to use the school toilets, but it did not help. We locked the toilets but the locks were broken several times,” said Prakash Pandey, teacher at Banaso Middle School in Hazaribagh.