Maintaining sanitation in schools is as important as imparting education, say doctors

Less than a month since schools have reopened after the summer vacation, the complaints have begun to pour in.

Irate parents are accusing school managements of not providing safe drinking water and hygienic toilets, preventing students from using the toilets during class hours, prescribing food items such as ‘Idli and Sambar’ for lunch and not giving sufficient time to students to empty their lunch boxes.

M. Thirunavukkarasu, a lawyer practising in the Madras High Court Bench here, says that his schoolgoing children often return home with heavy lunch boxes and accuse the teachers of not giving them enough time to finish their lunch.

"I hear similar complaints from my friends and colleagues and this seems to be a common problem in many schools," he adds.

Teachers preventing students from using the toilets during class hours is another issue that vexes parents. "Often, my son wets his pants on his way back home in the school bus. He says that some children play in the toilets for a long time to skip classes and, therefore, teachers do not allow any child to use the toilet," says Banumathi, a homemaker.

C. Kamaraj, former chief paediatrician of Government Rajaji Hospital here, says preventing children from using the toilet will increase the risk of children suffering from urinary tract infection.

"The bladder must be emptied regularly to keep the bacteria away. Or else, it may even lead to chronic kidney infection," he cautions.

Children not being allowed to visit the toilet is the common complaint in elite schools.

The situation in other schools is worse as they lack clean toilets or have no toilets at all, Dr.Kamaraj points out.

"Maintaining sanitation in schools is as important as imparting education. Hygiene must take priority over everything else because children are prone to infections," he adds.

Kalai Vijayakumar, president of the Tamil Nadu Matriculation Schools Association, says the School Education Department had recently issued a circular to all schools warning them of stringent action if they fail to provide and maintain clean toilets.

"The government is very serious about the issue and a majority of the schools have already begun sprucing up their toilets," he adds.

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