While most schools seem to have given Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan a miss on October 2, officials from the education department were kept busy. A circular dated October 1 had instructed the officials to compile a list of schools in their division which don’t have toilets and initiate the process of constructing them on Gandhi Jayanti itself.
President Pranab Mukherjee cleans a school in West Bengal’s Birbhum district as part of the Abhiyaan. Pic/PTI
“According to the RTE Act, all schools have to compulsorily have toilets for students. And, in case of co-education schools, the institutes have to construct separate toilets for girls and boys. Schools where this facility is still not available will receive a notice from the education department,” said D Junarrkar, assistant deputy director of education, Mumbai division.
The list compiled by officials in each division has to be submitted to the director of state primary education. “The director will then submit the report to the state education secretary. According to the data we have, most schools have toilets on their campus,” added Junarrkar. An education official, however, said that while Mumbai and Thane in the Mumbai division do not have schools that don’t have toilets, some such schools exist in Raigad, which is also a part of the Mumbai division.
While the department heads had clearly stated that education officials had to personally visit schools that do not have separate toilets for students, this particular criterion had left some officials unconvinced.
“The data provided by the District Information System for Education only looks at separate toilets in schools and there is no clear distinction between co-education schools and others. What’s the use of providing separate toilets for girls in a boys-only school?” asked an official.
With the sudden announcement of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, many schools were confused about whether they had to compulsorily undertake cleanliness drives in and around their institutes on October 2. Most schools in Mumbai gave the drive a miss on Gandhi Jayanti and stayed shut, but will undertake the drive at a later stage.
“There was no clarity on whether we had to be functional on October 2, which is a bank holiday otherwise. The state education department was not clear with its directives either. Finally, most schools decided to stay shut that day and conduct the campaign when the schools reopen after the long weekend,” said the principal of a Santacruz school.