Now, Sachin Tendulkar will tell kids to wash their hands

State govt incorporates song featuring Master Blaster in its school cleanliness campaign on Global Handwashing Day, even as schools wonder where the wash basins are

Illustration/ Ravi Jadhav
Illustration/ Ravi Jadhav

Tired of repeatedly reminding your children to wash their hands? Let Sachin Tendulkar do it for you. A public service announcement on the benefits of washing one’s hands, featuring the cricket legend and released as a song by Unicef India in 2008, has now been made part of a 12-step programme of the state school education department’s Clean School-Clean Maharashtra initiative.

As per the itinerary of the programme, launched in government schools across Maharashtra yesterday on the occasion of Global Handwashing Day, an exhaustive cleanliness campaign will be conducted in schools over the next 12 weeks.

Hear, hear!
So, where does Tendulkar’s song fit into the schedule? The catchy ditty will be played and/or sung in schools to drive home the message that regular washing of hands can go a long way in maintaining high standards of hygiene.

Unicef had released the song in 14 languages, and the state government is using the Marathi, Hindi and English versions in its initiative.

The programme underscores completion of several tasks, such as making children understand that most germs cannot be seen with the naked eye, storytelling, and organising ‘handwash races’ and other games to keep the campaign light and fun.

Not everyone’s enthused
Many schools in the city, though, are not convinced that a fun campaign alone can address the sticky issue of cleanliness among students. They pointed out that such programmes will be moot if government schools still don’t have access to basic facilities like wash basins or toilets, and the education department’s campaign seems rather misdirected.

“Sure, it’s a good initiative. But what if there is no wash basin for students in the first place? Studies show that a large number of girls are dropping out of schools owing to lack of clean toilets. The government had earlier distributed soaps in schools, but they were of poor quality,” said Uday Nare, a teacher from Hansraj Morarji School and spokesperson for teachers’ association Shikshak Bharati, Mumbai. He felt the focus should be on providing clean drinking water to schoolchildren and other such facilities before embarking upon teaching the importance of washing hands.

Other schools complained of being forced to take on the “additional responsibility” of organising events under the campaign.

A principal of a government school in Andheri said such initiatives are frequently launched and affect the academic calendar. “How much is a school expected to do? We are in the midst of semester examinations. There are already competency tests, launched by the state government, to be conducted. The new campaign will have to be adjusted into the curriculum.”

Rohan Bhat, chairman of Children’s Academy Group of Schools, which has schools in Malad and Kandivli, was, however, hopeful that the campaign will have a large impact on students. “Children are more likely to listen to instructions if they come from school authorities,” he believed.

With the Clean School-Clean Maharashtra initiative, the education department is vying for the Centre’s Clean School Awards.

English version of the song
First of all you should... wet your hands,
Then on your hands... the soap does a dance,
One hand then.... meets the other,
The hand then does... a front back number,
Then it’s time to play... in between the fingers,
And make the nails... move around in circles
Then the water splashes on your hands,
’Cause clean hands are strong hands.

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