“The structures were constructed in July 2019, and in only a few months, the strength of the school has gone up to 27 students. Our Cluster Resource Person even told us that ours in the only school where enrolment is improving. We have students coming from our neighbouring village to study here.”
Ningamma has been working in Malanagathihalli’s Government Lower Primary School for the last 25 years. She is currently the Headmaster of this tiny school and supported in her work by Kantamma, the school’s other teacher and one kitchen staff. Presently, the school has two classrooms, one kitchen, three toilets, one hand wash unit and one rainwater harvesting structure. The school is enclosed with walls and a gate that are brightly painted carrying messages on cleanliness and sanitation. Dressed in blue uniforms, the students look bright, happy and ready for anything.
Malanagathihalli is a small village of 100 households only with communities belonging largely to the Other Backward Castes (OBC) and Scheduled Castes (SC) who mostly work as daily wage labourers in the nearby industries. Despite being the only lower primary school in the village, people preferred to send their children to other private schools. The school had only two classrooms, one toilet structure for everybody, and no compound walls. There was no water supply to the school and children were involved in collecting water from taps or borewells outside the school. They also used to go outside for toilet usage. All this required constant vigilance. As a result, only 14-15 students attended classes every year.
According to Ningamma, hygiene awareness amongst both teachers and students was low. Students would not wash hands after using the toilet and they would also leave the toilet dirty.
Swami Vivekanada Youth Movement, WaterAid’s partner in the region, accessed the situation in the school and implemented an integrated WASH system and rainwater harvesting structure with participatory financial contribution from the school as well as the parents. Three new toilet structures were built separately for boys and girls. A hand wash unit was also built and soaps provided. The grey water from this unit was recycled for use in the kitchen garden surrounding the hand wash unit. Water supply pipeline to the mini water tank was repaired and restored. A rainwater harvesting structure was installed along with a storage tank (sump) under the ground. The water supplied from mini tank is now stored every day in the sump for daily use.
Along with this, both children and teachers were provided a series of trainings on how and when to wash hands, sanitation practices after toilet usage including wearing shoes while going to the toilet, cutting nails, importance of water, how to use and save water etc. Children were made aware of the importance of conserving water through various games and classroom activities. Teachers were taken on exposure visits to two model schools in Raichur project area to make them aware of the improvements that can be replicated in their school.
Ningamma says, “The children in the model schools stayed in the school till the evening, which is an inspiration to us. We also want to become like that, where children would love to come and stay for long.”
For now she is happy that with all the sanitation and water systems in place, students enjoy being in school and they don’t have to waste time and effort in arranging their daily water requirement. She also doesn’t have to worry about children straying away from her school. Once the gates are closed, the teachers can focus on only teaching.
Rohini Dhananjay, a 5th Std. student says, “Earlier I was not interested in coming to school. There was only one building and we had to go outside for toilet. Now, even if my parents ask me not to go, I want to come to school.”
This change reflects in the increase in number of students in the school post the improvements made here. More students have enrolled in just a few months, with children from neighbouring village also coming to the school which had never happened earlier.
Muniraju K.S. (35 years) and his wife Padma (27 years) whose son is studying in the school confirm this, “The training given in school has changed the behaviour of our children. We used to constantly scold them about maintaining hygiene but now they wash their hands and feet on their own. The community likes this school since now they have all the facilities and structures for a good functional school.”