“We don’t have separate toilets for girls in our school. To relieve ourselves, we have to walk around and find a secluded spot. To avoid this, we don’t drink water all day,” reveals 14-year-old Ratna from Ginigera village of Koppal district in Karnataka. Ratna and her schoolmate, Nirmala went to school together everyday. One day Nirmala was absent and it turned out that she was ill and suffered from a kidney stone, the main cause of which usually is lack of water.
This is a story that innumerable adolescent girls in rural India and poor urban settlements can relate to. “My mother has asked me to drop out of school since the school yard is always filthy and there are no designated toilets for girls nor any clean drinking water. She fears that I will fall sick like Nirmala. My parents would rather have me at home doing household chores, handling cow manure and washing utensils.” When Nirmala got admitted to a school in the nearby town, Ratna hoped that her parents would do the same. She wanted to study and live like a normal child. However, her parents could not afford it and she was asked to stay home and help around there.
This was before CAF India’s NGO partner, Sarvodaya Integrated Rural Development Society intervened through the Support My School (SMS) campaign in December 2014. Through the campaign, provisions were made at Ratna’s school for clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, including the construction of separate toilets for boys and girls, rain water harvesting, and sports and library facilities. With these improvements in the quality of education imparted to students, it is hoped that these will benefit their health, learning capabilities and productivity, especially of the girl child.
“I am back to school now. And we can play so many sports in our new playground in between classes,” says a chirpy Ratna, all smiles. Just like Ratna, other children who had dropped out due to the lack of basic amenities at the school also joined back. The school is one of the 1000 Happy, Healthy and Active Schools.
This is the kind of change that will help the nation keep its students where they belong – in the classroom.
CAF India is supporting Sarvodaya Integrated Rural Development Society to implement the SMS programme, aided by its partners Coca Cola and NDTV. Know more about the campaign.