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In Palghar, toilets in schools are ensuring fuller classrooms

New toilets at the Jamshet-Vasant Wadi Zilla Parishad School, Dahanu. — Photo: Rajendra G

New toilets at the Jamshet-Vasant Wadi Zilla Parishad School, Dahanu. — Photo: Rajendra G  

ZP schools in malnutrition-hit district saymore students, especially girls, are attending after new toilets were built

It’s 11 a.m. and classes at the Jamshet-Vasant Wadi Zilla Parishad School in Palghar are in full swing. Students’ voices reciting lessons ring through its corridors under the watchful eye of their teachers, while Principal Bharat Baraf sits in his office, going over the attendance records with a barely-concealed satifaction.

A girl, not more than 12, comes skipping out of a small, newly-constructed toilet in one corner of the compound. She is about to return to the classroom when she stops in her tracks, as though forgetting something. She runs back to a sparkling washbasin, washes her hands with soap and goes on her way, smiling.

For students at this school, the smiles reflect the novelty that these new toilets are for them: small and modest but sparkling clean and functional, bringing with them a quiet dignity and sense of privacy, and a change in attendance that teachers had not expected when they set about raising funds for building the toilets.

Mr. Baraf says, “All our students are from the Warli tribe. Their parents farm for food and work as daily wage labourers for a living. Not all of them have functional toilets at home, as water supply is an issue in these parts. After we built new toilets a year ago, attendance has gone up to almost 100 per cent.”

The six toilets, segregated for boys and girls, have round-the-clock water supply from a nearby borewell. Empty paint tubs are used as buckets, while plastic bottles fill in for mugs. Two washbasins with constant water supply and bars of soap have been installed on the toilets’ outer walls. There is a standing rule drummed into all students: always wash your hands with soap after using the toilet.

Rajashri Jadhav, a teacher who manages the school in Mr. Baraf’s absence, explains, “Earlier, we had two toilets but no water supply. Students, particularly girls, found it embarrassing to go to the fields to fetch water.”

Many girls have also confided to teachers that after the new toilets were built, they prefer to come to school during their periods for the dignity and comfort it provides compared to attending nature’s call in the open at home. Persistent efforts by teachers have resulted in new toilets being built in five Zilla Parishad schools with funds from a Mumbai-based corporate trust.

Naresh Patil, a teacher at Vankas ZP school nearby, says, “When we had only two toilets, many students, including girls, would go to the forests nearby to avoid the long queue during the recess. Others preferred to control the urge, which is not good at such a young age.”

Harish Agrawal of Capri Foundation, which donated the toilets as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, said, “Our CSR initiatives focus on facilitating education of the girl child. We did not want the education of tribal girls to be affected by the lack of a facility as basic as a toilet. For their dignity and to facilitate their education, this was the least we could do.”

We had two toilets but no water supply. It was embarrassing for students, particularly girls,

to fetch water

from the fields

Rajashri JadhavTeacher, Jamshet ZP School

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 7:10:32 AM |

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