‘CAG Survey Report on School Toilets’

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    29th Sep, 2020
  • The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) have found irregularities in the construction of toilets in schools in an audit report tabled before Parliament.

Context

  • The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) have found irregularities in the construction of toilets in schools in an audit report tabled before Parliament.

About

  • Public sector units claimed to have constructed 1.4 lakh toilets in government schools as part of a Right to Education project, but almost 40% of those surveyed by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) were found to be non-existent, partially constructed, or unused.
  • In an audit report presented in Parliament , the CAG said over 70% did not have running water facilities in the toilets, while 75% were not being maintained hygienically.
  • Lack of dedicated funds, poor maintenance and poor water availability in toilets were identified as major challenges, and central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) were roped in to bridge the gap over a one year period.

The Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan

  • The Swachh Vidyalaya Abhiyan was launched by the Ministry of Human Resource Development in September 2014 to meet the Right to Education Act’s mandate that all schools must have separate toilets for boys and girls.
  • It is the national campaign driving ‘Clean India: Clean Schools’. A key feature of  the campaign is to ensure that every school in India has a set of functioning and well maintained water, sanitation  and hygiene facilities.
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene in schools refers to a combination of technical and human development components that are necessary to produce a healthy school environment and to develop or support  appropriate health and hygiene behaviours.
  • The technical components include drinking water, hand washing, toilet and soap facilities in the school compound for use by children and teachers. The human development components are the activities that promote conditions within the school and the practices of children that help to prevent water, hygiene and sanitation related diseases.

Physical survey

  • There are 10.8 lakh government schools in the country. Overall, more than 1.4 lakh toilets were built by 53 CPSEs, with significant support coming from power, coal and oil companies. The CAG audit conducted a physical survey of a sample of 2,695 toilets built by these companies in 15 States.
  • Out of that sample, CPSEs identified but did not construct 83. Another 200 toilets were reported to be constructed, but were non-existent, while 86 toilets were only partially constructed.
  • Another 691 toilets “were found not in use mainly due to lack of running water, lack of cleaning arrangements, damages to the toilets and other reasons like use of toilets for other purposes, toilets locked up, etc,” said the audit report. Thus, almost 40% of toilets were non-existent, partially completed or unused.

No functional toilets

  • Out of the 1,967 coeducational schools surveyed, 99 schools had no functional toilets while 436 had only one functional toilet, meaning that the objective of providing separate toilets for boys and girls was not fulfilled in 27% of the schools, said the CAG.
  • In order to effectively change the behaviour of students, the project norms required the CPSEs to build toilets with running water and hand washing facilities, and to maintain the toilets for three to five years while charging the annual expenses to their CSR budgets.
  • However, the survey found that 72% of constructed toilets had no running water facilities inside, while 55% had no hand washing facilities at all. The audit also noticed “cases of defective construction of toilets, non-provision of foundation/ramp/staircase and damaged/overflowed leach pit, which led to ineffective use of toilets,” said the report.
  • With regard to maintenance and sanitation, 75% of toilets did not follow the norm for daily cleaning at least once a day. The survey found that 715 toilets were not being cleaned at all, while 1,097 were being cleaned with a frequency of twice a week to once a month. “Cases of non-provision of soap, bucket, cleaning agents and disinfectants in toilets and inadequate cleanliness of pathway were also noticed,” said the report.

 The benefits of water sanitation and hygiene to school children

  • Children who are healthy and well-nourished can fully participate in school and get the most from the education. Hygiene education in schools helps promote those practices that would   prevent water and sanitation related diseases as well as encourage healthy behaviour in future generations of adults.
  • Girls are particularly vulnerable to dropping out of school, partly because many are reluctant to continue their education when toilets and washing facilities are not private, not safe or simply not available.
  • When schools have appropriate, gender-separated facilities, an obstacle to attendance is removed. Thus having gender segregated toilets in schools particularly matters for girls. Gender norms and physiology make privacy more important for girls than boys, and biological realities mean that girls need adequate sanitary facilities at school to manage menstruation.
  • Basic facilities that provide for good hygiene and privacy, along with sensitive health promotion assist girls to stay in school and complete their education.
  • Hygiene in school also supports school nutrition. The simple act of washing hands with soap before eating the school mid day meal assists to break disease transmission routes. Children get the nutritional benefits intended, rather than ingesting bacteria, germs and viruses.
  • Studies show that when hand washing becomes part of a child’s daily routine the benefits to health are evident and the practice does not easily fade. School is therefore an ideal setting for teaching good hygiene behaviours that children can also carry home.
  • Having safe water, toilet and hygiene facilities in schools promotes equity. All children are equal in their right to access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and all children gain benefits through the improved hygiene practices promoted in schools.
  • By providing gender-segregated toilets, students are assured of privacy and dignity, a particularly important factor for girls’ school attendance. By providing inclusive and accessible facilities, children with special needs are able to attend school and further contribute to the development of their society.
  • Having a clean school fosters a child’s pride in his or her school and community. It enables every child become an agent of change for improving water, sanitation and hygiene practices in their families and within their community. School water and sanitation clubs encourage students to participate in taking care of latrines and handwashing stations, and in providing safe water where necessary.
  • Club members create rotating lists of responsibilities, sharing sanitation- and water-related chores among both boys and girls. This also fosters pride and ownership, and it counteracts the belief that these tasks are only for women and girls or particular social groups.
  • Children with disabilities are also vulnerable to dropping out of school. Accessible school facilities are a key to school attendance for children with disabilities. An effective water, sanitation and hygiene programmes seeks to remove barriers by promoting inclusive design – user-friendly, child-friendly facilities that benefit all users, including adolescent girls, small children and children who are sick or disabled.

Conclusion:

The provision of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in school secures a healthy school environment and protects children from illness and exclusion. It is a first step towards a healthy physical learning environment, benefiting both learning and health. Hence the government should take proactive measures to implement the recommendations of the CAG.

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