India moving towards provision of toilets in all schools: Raghuvansh

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New Delhi, Aug 29 (UNI) While lauding the efforts in increasing toilet coverage and availability of safe drinking water in schools, Minister for Rural Development Raghuvansh Pratap Singh has called for greater synergy between the Department of Drinking Water Supply (DDWS) and the Department of Elementary Education and Literacy (DEEL) so that the benefits of clean toilets and safe water can reach all of rural India in the near future.

''I am heartened by the fact that nearly two-thirds of the schools now have toilets and 85 per cent of them have drinking water. These rates have improved dramatically in the past few years.

Our priority is to reach all schools with these basic facilities at the earliest,'' Dr Singh said.

The Minister said this at a workshop organised on School Sanitation and Hygiene Education (SSHE) in collaboration with UNICEF and the DDWS. Among those who attended the workshop included Secretary DDWS Ms Shantha Sheela Nair, Joint Secretary of DDWS Mr T M Vijay Bhaskar, Joint Secretary of Ministry of Health&Family Welfare Mr Amarjeet Sinha, Chief of UNICEF Child's Environment Section Ms Lizette Burgers. The DDWS is currently spearheading a national programme called the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), started in 1999, of which school sanitation programme is an important part. The aim is to provide for separate toilets for boys and girls and for imparting hygiene education.

The School Sanitation programme is at a tipping point now, after all the hard work of the last five to six years. The emphasis will now be on quality of facilities and on close collaboration with the education sector to ensure that children learn correct hygiene behaviour, said Secretary Ms Nair.

A technical note prepared by DDWS and UNICEF which provides new and improved designs of school toilets and water facilities was released by the Minister. These new designs will provide for the special needs of children with physical disabilities and of adolescent girls.

Regarding the impact of sanitation facilities in school, Ms Burgers said provision of toilets is contributing to significant increase in enrollment and attendance rates of girls in India and in other parts of the world. Schools must have the best quality of toilets possible, in keeping with the rising standards in other sectors. Children should learn to use them and aspire for similar facilities at home, she said.

DDWS and DEEL are working closely to launch a national campaign to promote sanitation and hygiene in schools in the country in September 2008 and October 15 will be celebrated as Global Handwashing Day in all schools of the country.

There are nearly 10 lakh schools in the country in which an estimated 10 crore children are enrolled. Schools provide a powerful channel to shape the thinking of these children and learn the importance of hygiene and sanitation as essential life skills. This would preempt the need to invest huge resources much later on information, education and communication to motivate adults to change their behaviour which is generally far more difficult.

UNI AJ SP RAI2007

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