Challenges other than WASH
• Corruption, mismanagement and lack of accountability
There are various state government schemes that target health and hygiene and have good intent, but they do not go all the way to make sure that students are the actual beneficiaries. For example in Karnataka, the Ksheera Bhagya programme distributes free milk to government schools. However, many schools have no facility to boil and children are given raw milk to drink which could pose serious health concerns. Any excess milk gets curdled and is wasted. In many schools, the heads of school and other staff just take the milk to their own homes.
Another scheme that was brought to our attention is the Shuchi Yojanae programme where free sanitary napkins are distributed to adolescent girls in government schools in Karnataka. These are distributed in the beginning of the year and volunteers didn’t see any follow up about the efficacy; quality or if it was sufficient. It is not ascertained if the girls did use it or did other female members in the family also partake of the dole.
Teachers and Heads of Government Schools have a role to play in the execution of these schemes. But since they are assured jobs for life, there is often no accountability. Our study showed that there were external interventions contributing to infrastructure in government schools, such as, Rotary / SBI/Art of Living/ other IT corporates (CSR) but none want to get involved in the operations and maintenance.
Whitefield Ready volunteers working in Bangalore Government Schools now insist on an agreement with CSR departments for a three year operation and maintenance period.
• Local Societal Challenges
The Volunteer group emphasise that parent profiles influenced health, hygiene, nutrition and WASH habits of their wards. For example, parents of students in government schools in Whitefield, Bangalore are essentially migrant labour/ construction daily wage workers from settlements. During a health check 40% of students were diagnosed with a potential heart condition, but only 25% of the parents came to enquire when they were called, as none could spare the day away from work. In many families, school is essentially treated as a day care when they go to work. Because of rampant alcohol abuse and domestic violence at home, the day to day lives are so complex that mothers view schools as a day care. Many children came to school without having breakfast, so volunteers have to make sure that they provide early lunch in school.
Best Practices and Catch Up Paths
The idea of the study was also to find solutions for schools. There were many schools that did exhibit good/best practices and they could present “Catch-up Paths” for other schools could replicate. It could be through student led changes, through School Director-Teacher coalitions with vision, through a sensitive school management, through external Intervention and lastly through building a sound knowledge base.
a) Catch up through student led changes
Lawrence School, Lovedale
The school is one of the premier residential schools in India and is 157 years old. Lovedale is situated about 6 kilometres from Ootacamund, on the central plateau of the Nilgiri Hills. It is about 7200 feet above mean sea level and its climate is temperate throughout the year. The school stands on its own estate of about 750 acres. It was only in 2014 that a group of students decided that a specific and scientific method of waste-management should be established in the school. They went around the vast land that belonged to the school and collected bits and pieces of trash that made up several big bags. This triggered the thought that waste should be segregated and handled so that it becomes a resource. In a short span of a year, Lawrence School, Lovedale has diverted their waste away from landfills. Waste is judiciously segregated in the public spaces using labelled dustbins as well as in the kitchen.
It has clean toilets with necessary and adequate infrastructure and products with running water from a rain-fed lake. The school also grows a small patch of Herbal Garden. Medical and Sanitary Waste is picked up vendor Kovai Biowaste Management, which is a common facility run by Indian Medical Association. Students actively participate with the NGO, MOB (Make Ooty Beautiful) for cleaning up the Ooty town.
b) Catch up through Director- Teacher coalitions with vision
K. K. English School, Bangalore
K. K. English School is a privately run school and caters to low to medium income groups. The school fee is a meagre `600 per month per student and the school runs with the income generated. A committed head of institution as well as a committed teacher have come up with innovative ideas in education and hands on learning of green practices and education in general. Despite budget constraints, it has shown what an average school in India is capable of. The Manager of KK English School, M.K. Khan and science teacher Alli Rani have for many years introduced and carry forth many eco – friendly practices within the school. The students have been part of many campaigns such as ‘Clean up Varthur Lake’ (a highly contaminated lake in the city of Bangalore. They had won T.N. Khoshoo Ecology and Environment Award in 2011 for their project Solid Waste: A Threat to Water Bodies and Concern for Air Pollution.
Their good practices include:
• Rain water harvesting and recharging of borewells/ ground water
• Energy production through windmills
• Using waste material to create objects for landscaping
• Energy production through solar panels
• Using kitchen waste from student homes to generate biogas. The Biogas is being used in a school staff’s house