WASH in Indian schools: A national mission

Sanitation and hygiene issues in schools remain high on the development agenda in India, more than a decade after the start of the Total Sanitation Campaign, evidenced by the holding of the first WASH in Schools Leadership Course held in Delhi from 6-9 August. The course was organised by the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS), the Administrative Staff College of India and UNICEF. More than 130 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Educational professionals from 25 states are reported to have participated. 
The course aims to increase the capacity of local and national actors working in WASH in schools (WinS) interventions under the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (Total Sanitation Campaign).

Although a lot of progress has been made under the TSC, there is still a lot of work to be done. As the Secretary of the MDWS, Mr. Pankaj Jain, stated, “WASH in Schools should be a National Mission”. At the moment, it is far beyond achieving success at a national level. Mr Louis George’s Arsenault, Representative, UNICEF, acknowledged WASH in Schools as a critical component of child-friendly education, contributing to a healthy and conducive learning environment and a significant reduction in absenteeism and dropout rates, especially among girls. “It also has an impact on enhanced primary school attendance, improved health and cognitive development, increasing girls’ participation in school,” he said.

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With WASH programmes still lacking in schools across India, HEEALS (Health Education Environment And Livelihood Society), based in Gurgaon, is trying to contribute towards a national mission by conducting WASH awareness in schools in slum areas and unauthorized zones where no other WASH agents are operating. HEEALS plans to carry out a Water Sanitation Menstrual Hygiene & Girl Education Awareness project across five different states of India including Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, New Delhi NCR Region and, Leh and Ladakh. The project aims to go into the interior parts of these states where water, sanitation and menstrual hygiene practice are far beyond the reach of most people. “The awareness project will be carried out in places where the dropout rate among girls in schools is high due to the non-availability of separate toilets and lack of awareness about sanitation and menstrual hygiene”, says HEEALS’ Managing Director, Gaurav Kashyap.

Without the work of civil society organisations such as HEEALS and support for their work, the realisation of WASH at a national level can only be aspirational.  Find out more about the work of HEEALS and offer your support at: www.heealsorg. Read the full UNICEF article at: http://www.unicef.org/india/reallives_8335.htm

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