Rethinking The Swachh Vidyalaya Initiative

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The Swachh Vidyalaya Initiative taken up since August 2014 by the Ministry of Human Resources Development under the government’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)  has aimed at providing toilets, for both girls and boys, in schools that don’t have these facilities.  It also aims at making defunct school toilets functional.  Further, the initiative emphasizes the need to have strong demand / behavior change campaigns to inculcate safe sanitation among children, and through them their parents and families – to consistently use toilets and not practice open defecation, maintain their toilets and also instill strong habits around hand washing.

While no comprehensive assessment of this programme is available so far, construction achievement figures are available and are being tracked from across the country.  While the news around construction of toilets is encouraging, the larger issues around usability, availability of water, etc. are still far from satisfactorily being addressed.

It has been assessed in the latest Swachhta Status report that 4.17 lakh toilets were constructed in 2.61 lakh schools and the target has been achieved. Of this number, only twelve corporate houses have constructed 3,466 toilets. .

Ground reports from various areas including states in the North East and East point out that a majority of toilets in water stressed regions are yet to be handed over to school authorities, since no adequate provision for  water supply has been made.  This seems to be a major challenge and needs to be addressed.  Water experts say integrated water resources management is key to solve this crisis.

Shipra Saxena, Program Manager, India Sanitation Coalition. With around 17 years of experience, Shipra has been associated with TARU Leading Edge, Dept. of Drinking Water and Sanitation (Govt. of India), and Water Aid India. Before joining ISC, she was working with Population Foundation of India (PFI).

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