Government's 'Great Toilet Hoax'

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The rich Government of Andhra Pradesh has money for everything, but not enough for construction of toilets in...

The rich Government of Andhra Pradesh has money for everything, but not enough for construction of toilets in schools and their maintenance. In the process, it doesn't fear brazening out even the Supreme Court's directive, not to talk of public opinion. The Hans India which took initiative and carried a campaign on this issue last year tried to find out what the latest position is in the wake of reopening of schools after a long summer vacation. But to one's consternation, our Correspondents located in different regions of the state found that very little has changed even after the expiry of deadline set by the Court by last November.

A job mostly not done

BH Ramakrishna

From Secretariat : Whatever the government claim to do or have done already, ground realities are such that no toilet in government school across the state is well-maintained. Within a few months of construction, they become defunct

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Lofty ideals and schemes often fail immediately either due to governmental apathy or the beneficiary's reluctance to add his/her side of responsibility in keeping them. Protection and maintenance of toilets in government schools is one such example. After the Supreme Court's directive to provide toilets in schools within a stipulated period, things moved fast and funds were sanctioned by the Rajiv Vidya Mission and by the turn of the academic year 2011-12, more than 85% of schools in the state were provided with toilet facility. But majority of them have become defunct in just under six months due to poor maintenance and officials were quick to blame the villagers for it.

"We conducted a brief survey in all the villages and to our astonishment, we found as many as 24,758 toilets in the state have been defunct by the end of 2012. We had to sanction an additional Rs 34.33 crores for repairs", K Venkateswara Rao, Chief Engineer of civil works at Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) told the Hans India. The report also said that 6,075 schools don't have toilet facility at all. According to norms of Right To Education (RTE) Act, every toilet shall have a minimum of two units. This means, a total of 12,150 units have to be set up. "Out of these 12,150, we could complete 4,540 by June 12 and I hope the remaining will be constructed in just under 3-4 months" Venkateswara Rao said.

Though it is not completely affecting the exercise to set up toilets, there appears to be some buck-passing between two governmental departments. RVM argues that toilets and supply of safe drinking water facility come under the purview of Rural Water Supply (RWS) department where as the RWS counters that since it has a limited mandate of providing toilets and water to all needy habitations which include schools in rural areas, it cannot do justice to all the 76,756 schools due to paucity of funds. "Moreover, we don't have the infrastructure or clear cut directions to provide water for the needs of schools. Same is the case with toilets", a top officer connected with the issue told The Hans India. "As we are part of the PIL filed in the apex court, we had to pursue this on a priority basis" Vijaykumar, an official of RVM said.

Whatever the government claim to do or have done already, ground realities are such that no toilet in government school across the state is well-maintained. Within a few months of construction, they become defunct. "It depends on the people of the area as well. Government can provide the toilet but the community should take care of its maintenance. People feel that it's their property. During summer vacation, many of the toilets will be damaged. The doors are taken away, stones will be thrown into commodes and sometimes, the commodes will be totally broken.

Anyway, we made the Mandal Education Officers (MEOs) responsible and we directed them to keep two masons always ready to take up any maintenance work", V Usharani, State Project Director of Rajiv Vidya Mission, revealed. But the NGOs and villagers question why the government is not appointing a sweeper who can clean the toilet daily. For a meager amount of Rs 2,000 the government can appoint watchman-cum-sweeper, they said. Usharani said right now it is not possible as appointment of nearly 76,000 staff requires a policy decision. We asked the headmasters to get the cleaning work done with a sum of Rs 500 every month, she added.

"We want to entrust this job of monitoring of maintenance totally to the new School Management Committees (SMCs) which will be formed in another three months. Unless we ensure community participation, we have to keep on spending for repairs" she averred.

Definition of toilets According to the norms, a toilet means setting up of one WC and two Urinal commodes in one unit. Since two units are a must in each school, two WCs as well as three or four urinal units will be placed. For a strength of 80 students, one unit will be constructed. The cost of each unit shall not exceed Rs 35,000. The toilet shall be constructed at least 200 metres away from the classrooms. Depending upon the strength of the school and number of boys and girls, one separate toilet for girl students is mandatory.

Sir, no water anywhere!

K Viswanath

Rayalaseema : The worst affected district is Anantapur in this region, where only 1,762 toilets are functioning out of a total 4,608

sc2Many government schools in Rayalaseema region do not have toilets and sufficient water facility. In all the four districts � Chittoor, Kadapa, Kurnool and Anantapur � it is a similar situation. For instance in Chittoor district there are 60 primary schools without single toilet. Out of the total 4,197 government primary schools 4,137 schools have toilets and the remaining 60 schools are functioning without the facility and students are forced to depend on open urination. For this the Rural Water Supply Department had sent proposals to government asking for construction of about 700 toilets in government schools. There are 26 government girls' high schools in this proposal.

In fact, many toilets in schools are unusable, due to poor maintenance and lack of funds for repair works. For instance there are five toilets in MPP School in Rajiv Gandhi Colony in Rajiv Nagar Panchayath in Tirupati Rural mandal, but no tap connection to these toilets are in functioning. In another MPP school in Satyanarayanapuram of this same panchayath has four toilets, but none is usable, because there is no sufficient water supply. Two toilets have been locked down since there is no water.

The unhygienic condition of these toilets is major threat to students' health. The major Nehru Municipal High School in Tirupati has four toilets for girls and no boy student uses toilets and prefers only open space, because of poor maintenance. The TPPM high school has seven toilets and with the proper care taken by Head Master, all are functioning well.

The worst affected district is Anantapur in this region, where only 1,762 toilets are functioning out of a total 4,608. In this district there are about 5,171 schools in which 4,099 are run by government and still there are 40 unrecognised schools. For all these schools, as per the official figure, there are 1,297 toilets for boys, 3,311 for girls and 411 urinals for boys and 689 for girls. But the poor maintenance and lack of water is the main reason for their non-functioning.

In Kurnool and Kadapa districts also the negligence of school staff and lack of funds from concerned government departments force the students to prefer open toilet rather than using the constructed ones.

No money is given for maintenance

Samuel Tatikonda

sc3Visakhapatnam : Even three months after the expiry of the Supreme Court's March 31 deadline, asking the State governments to provide for basic amenities like toilets, sanitation and drinking water in schools, there still seems to be no reprieve for the girl student in Visakhapatnam district. It may be recalled the apex court took it up seriously and ordered all states, under the Right to Education Act, to provide toilets, drinking water and sanitation giving them a set time. Due to lack of these facilities, the girl students feel discouraged from going to schools.

The court clearly states that 30 students must have one bathroom and a toilet. The Hans India survey in this district has a different tale to tell. The study revealed that a majority of schools in the district still don't have these facilities and students, especially girls, continue to face hardship. "The government grossly failed in providing sufficient funds and staff like scavengers", say some parents. "Some toilets were of no use as they do not have water facility, and even if they had water, the source of water connection was too far away", they lamented.

About 1,350 students including 700 girl students are studying in the Thota Garuvu ZP High School. The four toilets which were constructed four years back were not fit for use as there is no water facility. The school Headmaster VVTS Prakasam told this paper that he didn't receive any official information regarding construction of new toilets in the school.

K.A. Balamani, Headmistress at the Boyapalem Government School, in Anandapuram Mandal said that there were only four toilets in the school which were in a dilapidated condition. About 350 students go to this school of which 60 percent are girls. About 2,000 students are studying in Chandrammapalem ZP High School and 60 percent of them are girls. There are nine toilets in all here, with continuous running water because of the benevolence of the locals who donated a motor pump. Headmaster M Rajababu said the District Collector sanctioned 9 more toilets and they were under construction.

Andhra University High School is a lot better with the authorities providing a permanent scavenger and another who gets her wages with the special fee collected from the students. Talking to The Hans India the HM of the school M Mangathai said that there was no sanitation problem in the school. The amount of Rs 1,600, which is being paid to the scavenger, is a burden to the school as the education department does not take up this responsibility.

Maintenance a big concern One concern haunts all the HMs -- that is maintenance. "It is a nightmare for us to even think of how we are maintaining these facilities without funds. We were told there is no special allowance to maintain them". "We are paying from our pockets," one HM, who didn't want to be identified, lamented. "Electricity bills sky rocket when we use the pump sets for water and how long can we foot the bill", asked a teacher. She appealed to the government to provide special funds to upkeep these facilities.

DEO admits lacunae The District Education Officer K Krishnaveni admitted to the fact that the facilities are not functioning on expected lines. The Rajiv Vidya Mission (RVM) and Rural Water Scheme (RWS) departments are looking after the construction of the bathrooms and toilets. She said there was no provision for separate funds and employees are to maintain the bathrooms themselves. She said it is not possible to use the funds under the RMSA, Midday Meal and RVM. The officials of these departments gave a report on the developments to the District Collector at the review meeting on Thursday. The Collector ordered completion of works at the earliest. But who will maintain these facilities? This issue has to be addressed on a war-footing basis more than taking up construction of new projects.

They construct but don't complete

Ch Sowmya Sruthi

Vijayawada: A school Headmaster said that certain toilets although constructed were not put in use as the contractors have some impending issues with the bills

Lack of proper facilities is still a concern to the students studying in the government and municipal and Zilla Parishad schools. Although there is an adequate time to take up construction of toilets, class rooms and safety walls to the schools, the government in the very first step failed to complete the repairs and constructions of toilets.

In around 2,750 schools which include Zilla Parishad, Mandal Parishad and Municipal Corporation schools only four schools are exclusively for girls. The rest are co-education schools where going to nature's call is embarrassing and difficult in case of improper facility.

As many as 600 toilets are now under construction in various schools across the district. With a budget of Rs 6 crore, under the Rajiv Vidya Mission (RVM) scheme the construction and repair works are being taken up. Friendly toilets, which are used by the physically challenged students, were also under construction. Speaking to this newspaper A Haritha, a student from the Municipal High School at Jammi Chettu center said, 'they have constructed toilets during the end of last year but doors were not fixed making them not suitable for use. The doors were not attached till now and we are facing inconvenience to use them. A friend of ours is made to stand at the entrance every time'.

A school Headmaster on condition of anonymity said that certain toilets although constructed were not put in use as the contractors have some impending issues with the bills. The students are using the old toilets till now, he said. When contacted the District Education Officer (DEO) D Devananda Reddy he said that Rs 20,000 were released to every school last year to take up repairs to the facilities and infrastructure. The construction of toilets is nearing completion and we expect them to be in use from the end of this month. If any representation on de-functioning of them has come, we would definitely attend to them, he added.

Little changes on ground

James Edwin

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Warangal : The lofty ambitions of the state and central governments to have toilets in every government school may look impressive at the level of conception but in practicality they fail to yield the required results. A ground level check in the schools reveals the fact the schemes are just limited to the papers. Though the officials and the government claims that they have provided toilet facility for the students the reality is different.

Still a majority of the students, both the girls and the boys, in the government schools go outside to answer the call of the nature. This happens despite the official claims on equipping about 80 to 90 percent schools with toilets for the use of children.

According to the official sources there are 3,623 schools in the district. Of them 2,695 are primary, 405 upper primary and 523 high schools spread in 51 mandals catering to the needs of about 2.70 lakh students. Besides that 30 model schools are sanctioned and are coming up. Of those schools 3,390 schools fall under the control of Rajiv Vidya Mission (RVM) with regard to the construction of toilets and their maintenance. The remaining schools are looked after by the zilla panchayats.

As per RVM executive engineer Ravinder Rao's information 3,014 schools that are under their control are equipped with toilets. Toilets are sanctioned for 376 schools and are being constructed. Toilets are also being constructed at the schools under Children With Special Needs (CWSN) scheme. Nevertheless, at majority of the schools the toilets are not usable. It is because either there won't be water or they might have been jammed and badly maintained. As a result the students are inadvertently forced to go outside.

For instance, at Kothapet village in Hanamkonda mandal there are two separate toilets for girls and for boys. But both are unusable. 'The rodents have dug up the toilets jamming the pipelines. We asked the higher ups to repair and they told us to do it ourselves' said the school head master Md Dastagir.

'We get school contingency fund of Rs 5,000 and maintenance grant of Rs 7,000 per annum and the funds goes towards power bills, stationary and others, and nothing will be left for the tasks like repairing the toilets' he said. 'We told the head masters to give first priority to the toilets and given them powers to make use of all the funds available with them for the maintenance of the toilets' said RVM official Ravinder Rao. Though there are toilets in the schools their maintenance has become a huge problem with meagre funds at the disposal of head masters, explained a teacher R Kumara Swamy of Mogilicharla ZPHS in Geesukonda mandal. 'There should be a separate provision of funds towards maintenance of the toilets' he added.

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