“Not employing sanitary workers in schools is a major issue”
Madurai district has 1,226 government schools, but none of them has a permanent sanitary worker.
With no basic amenities such as water and lack of cleanliness, the toilets in most government schools are in an unusable condition.
K. Parvathy, Additional Chief Educational Officer of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), told The Hindu on Monday that the School Education Department had identified 210 schools without toilets in the district last year.
“We have already constructed toilets for girls in 102 schools and common toilets in 89. Construction work in other schools is likely to be completed soon,” she said.
The SSA sanctions Rs.1 lakh for construction of toilets in schools that do not have proper sanitation facilities but no maintenance grant is allocated by the State government, according to officials.
Salai Selvam, an educationist, pointed out that as per the Right to Education Act, 2009, toilets were a must in all schools. But there was no ratio to determine the number of toilets in proportion to the strength of students.
“Not employing sanitary workers in schools is a major issue. Lack of proper maintenance is one of the reasons for students not being able to use the toilets,” she noted.
A consultant for Kallar reclamation schools claimed that in a few schools teachers denied permission for students to use the toilets.
“The teachers keep the toilets locked. I have seen schools where Prosopis juliflora (‘seemai karuvelam’) bushes are placed to prevent students from using the toilets. In some schools, teachers keep the toilets for their use and show no concern for the students,” said the activist.
Deputy Director of SOCO Trust S. Selva Gomathi said that students, particularly girls, faced health risks because of unusable toilets in schools.
The trust had conducted a study on maintenance of toilets in various government and corporation schools in the district.
“The toilets in a few schools did not have a roof, making it unsafe for girl students. A large number of schools did not have water facilities. The students avoid using toilets at schools and become vulnerable to kidney ailments,” Ms. Gomathi noted.
Permanent sanitary staff should be appointed in all schools and the Department of School Education should monitor the maintenance of toilets, she concluded.