Published: 24th August 2018
These toilets in Karnataka's government schools are keeping girls from dropping out
It is true that girls also have rights to education. But, lack of toilets in Government schools has led to absenteeism. Reaching Hand is trying to cover it up by building toilets for girls
Two weeks ago, the girls at Bendiganahalli Government High School were happy to see new toilets with a proper door, running water, a wash basin and a lady to keep them clean. As a result, they no longer needed to be absent or get an earful from teachers for being late to class. With non-functional toilets a few months ago, the girls had to run to some friend's house nearby to attend to nature's call and they would be late to classes. Ironically, students in India's IT capital had no access to proper toilets.
All that has changed now thanks to Reaching Hand, a not-for-profit organisation has been working on a project called 'Girls Glory' under which they are building full-fledged toilets in government schools. The project was initiated seven years ago and they have completed building more than 100 toilets and improving the school lives of over 8000 girls in government schools across Karnataka.
Touching more lives: Reaching Hand has been able to touch lives of more than 8,000 girls by building toilets
Mohan Paul Prabhu, Programme Director, Reaching Hand, says, "When we did a survey on absenteeism and school dropouts among young girls in Karnataka, we found out that more than 50 per cent of them were leaving because they did not have proper toilets in schools. Even today, many Government schools lack toilets. Either they are not functional or in many instances, there are no separate toilets for girls and boys. Obviously, boys would choose open defecation. Girls do not drink water throughout the day just to avoid having to go to the toilet. Imagine the kind of impact it will have on their health. We identify such schools and build toilets for them."
Although the project first started in Bengaluru, it has now spread across other districts like Ballari, Davanagere, Tumukuru and Kolar. "The first toilet that we built was in K Channasandra Government High School in Bengaluru and there was a good response from the management and students. Even though we were a very small team, we made sure that the initiative reached all the beneficiaries. We started collaborating with various corporate companies for funds and volunteers to touch lives in the rural areas of Karnataka," he adds.
In the last few months, Reaching Hand has also renovated more than 14 toilets and conducted 18 workshops on health hygiene and puberty. Digital libraries have been set up at schools in Kolar and Davanagere. There is a smart TV that is used to play digital content like audio or visuals and all this is aligned to the syllabus so that children grasp it quickly
Once the funding had been sorted out, the next challenge was to convince school principals to take ownership and see that the toilets are maintained well throughout the year. "That sense of ownership does not come overnight. We have to create awareness on various issues that the girl students face and how that leads to dropouts and absenteeism. In some cases, school teachers understand the importance and they come forward to take ownership but for many people, it takes time because they don't have the budget for water, sanitation and hygiene," explains Mohan. Apart from this, Reaching Hand also creates awareness on menstrual hygiene and bodily changes in adolescent girls and boys.
Brand new: Teachers and students inaugurating newly constructed toilets at a government school in Bengaluru
As a result of the new toilets, there has been an increase in students attendance form 70 to 79 per cent and now they are working to make it 90 per cent. "After a few years of the implementation of the project, we conducted a survey to check if there was a decrease in absenteeism and an increase in the students' enrolment in the school. There was a drastic change and the enrolment of girl students has increased in all the government schools," he happily adds.