World Toilet Day: Community Action helps repair school toilets after a year

On the occasion of the World Toilet Day, Video Volunteers brings you a story of how our Community Correspondent motivated a community to demand for its' children's rights for sanitation in school and got toilets made after a struggle of one year.

The government primary school of Jangalipur, deep in Uttar Pradesh's Siddharthnagar district, had broken toilets since May 2015.  According to the Right to Free Education Act, 2009 every school must have clean and free sanitation facilities accessible for every child. Under Swacch Bharat Abhiyaan, there is a separate component specifically meant for government schools called Swachh Bharat: Swachh Vidyalaya, a  national campaign driving ‘Clean India: Clean Schools’. A key feature of  the campaign is to ensure that every school in India has a set of functioning and well maintained water and hygienic toilet facilities. Under the campaign, the combination of these components are deemed necessary to produce a healthy school environment and to develop or support appropriate health and hygiene behaviours.

But the students of Jangalipur faced immense difficulties and humiliation when they would want to relieve themselves. "We have to go out in neighbourhood fields to relieve ourselves. If we get caught by the owners, they scold us and abuse us," says Arjun Prasad, a fifth-grade student. His experience was shared by the 190 other students, both boys and girls, of the school. The students also missed out on classes because they would travel long distances to go to a secluded place to relieve themselves.

In November 2015, Bramhjeet Yadav, our Community Correspondent from Uttar Pradesh, took up the issue and decided to get the children their rights under RTE. He made a video recording the miserable conditions of the toilets, the problems of the students and the efforts of the teacher to get the toilets fixed. Armed with the video, he gathered the community, who for the first time saw the problems its children faced in the school. Bramhjeet, then, motivated the community to spring into action for the legal rights of their children, educated them about RTE rights. "It was hard to motivate the community to demand their rights. They had never before demanded anything from the administration. But I explained that it was for their children," says Bramhjeet. He then took the parents to the Block Development Officer to discuss the problem. After a long discussion, parents submitted a formal application.

 Within the next six months, the toilets were fixed. Today the children of the Primary school in Jangalipur have access to hygienic sanitation facilities. They no longer have to face humiliation to relieve themselves and attend classes regularly.

 The video goes on to exhibit the power of community-led changes that can be brought about, when supported by evidences and knowledge of rights and entitlements. "The video was the motivation that moved the community and staff into action," admits Omshankar Yadav, a teacher at the primary school.

Across India, 600 million people have no access to toilets. Studies show that at least four schools out of 10 in India run without usable toilets. Lack of toilets in schools has been stated as a reason why millions of children drop out of school. 23 percent of girls drop out from school after attaining puberty. Studies show that the girl drop-out rate can be brought down to 11 percent by just building clean toilets in schools.

This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Bramhjeet.

 Community Correspondents come from marginalized communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories. These stories are ’news by those who live it.’ They give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges. See more such videos at Take action for a more just global media by sharing their videos and joining in their call for change.

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Avijit Adhikary is a journalist with nearly 8000 days of field experience till date. In the past two decades, he has witnessed the ebb and flow of the media industry in India, with ripples felt in his region too. This includes the rise of digital media, the decline of print...

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