Nisha (10) avoids going to the toilet during her school hours to the extent that she can help it because “it is too dirty” and she “cannot bear the smell”. The toilets are too few in her school that has over 500 children and it is never clean. Nisha goes to a private school where most children are from middle-class families that pay a high fee for “good education”. But a basic facility like a toilet that children can actually use is an issue even here.

In terms of numbers, even government schools today are better off than they were some years ago. As per the Analytical Report published by the Department of Public Instruction for 2011-12, 97.91 per cent of primary schools have toilets for boys in the State, while 98.81 per cent have toilets for girls. This is up from 88.01 per cent and 64.66 per cent, respectively, as on 2009-10. But the usability factor of these toilets is highlighted by the Annual Status of Education Report, 2012, conducted by the non-governmental organisation Pratham. As per the report, in 2011, 41.1 per cent schools had usable girls’ toilets. The number went up to 54 per cent in the following year, but it still means that nearly half the schools lack this basic facility despite having toilets just for the record. This is particularly significant because the lack of toilets is one of the reasons for the high dropout rate among girls.

An ongoing survey of Bangalore schools by the South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM) reveals some of the reasons for poor usability. “There are schools with toilets but no water connection. We have come across schools where teachers have locked up toilets because they think children cannot keep them clean,” says Gangadhara Reddy N., programme co-ordinator in-charge of the Right to Education Act at SICHREM.

He says that many schools do not have manpower to keep the school premises and toilets clean. “Most schools have not employed staff for that. The Rs. 1,600 allowance given to schools to outsource cleaning is rarely used for that purpose,” says Mr. Reddy.

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