In early 20th century, “Bapu had said sanitation is more important than Independence. But people forgot about it, and more than 50 per cent of our people defaecate in the open. Credit goes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for taking this up through the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. He even mentioned the ‘toilet’ word from the Red Fort,” said TRF Trustee and WinS Chair Sushil Gupta.
In Chennai to participate in the first zonal meet of WinS (WASH in Schools) Orientation for the District Coordinators of Zone 5, he spelt out the details, answered questions and cleared doubts about WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) to be implemented by Rotary India across Indian schools.
The meet was hosted by D 3230. Gupta and RI Director P T Prabhakar, an ex-officio member of the WinS Executive Committee, provided an overview of this significant focus project of The Rotary Foundation.
Outline of WinS
WASH is often misunderstood as the general hand washing habit which Rotary has been campaigning among students by providing soaps in schools to promote hygiene. But in reality WASH is taking hygiene to the next level, they explained. It includes providing adequate water facilities (both for drinking and sanitation purposes), toilets, promoting healthy hand wash habits before and after eating and after toilet use, and most importantly, bringing about behavioural change in the community.
Through ‘WASH in Schools’ Rotary hopes to ‘catch them young’ and make children change agents, so they take this habit home first and then to the community. Gupta said Rotarians in the South always outshone their colleagues elsewhere. “When I visit the northern Districts, I say to the Rotarians there, ‘If you want to understand Rotary’s work, travel South,’ ” he said, amidst applause.
WinS is a target challenge approved by the RI Board of Trustees to work in two of Rotary’s focus areas — Water and Sanitation and Basic Education and Literacy. The initial years of the challenge will focus on India, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Kenya. Based on the global grant research, these countries have shown active engagement in WASH in Schools.
“In India we are working in association with the GoI and Rotary has committed to construct 10,000 toilet blocks in schools annually for two years. With 34 Districts, it works out to around 300 schools per District. That is not at all difficult with the kind of resources and networking we have,” said the WinS Chair. Rotary India has entered into an understanding with the HRD Ministry’s Department of School Education and Literacy to construct 489 toilet blocks in schools in 10 States. An MoU is also being signed with UNICEF to identify solutions and best practices to ensure a sustained success of WinS.
He reminded the audience that sustainability was a major issue; “you cannot do this work and move away, because after two years the asset will be dysfunctional.”
Swachh Vidyalaya Swachh Bharat
But along with WinS, work on polio will continue, “until it is completely eradicated. But our role will be much more than just building toilets — it would include promoting hygienic behaviour in children and ultimately Swachh Vidyalayas that will be a passport to Swachh Bharat,” Gupta said, adding, “Swachh Vidyalaya Swachh Bharat would be our tagline…. Our Happy Schools will not be possible without WinS.”
WinS at PETS
Prabhakar enumerated the milestones achieved by Rotary India. “We are on top of the Rotary world — No. 1 in membership with 20,000 new Rotarians in India since July 1, 2013, which means 60 per cent of the new membership was added from just one country — India — with the rest of 201 countries making up 40 per cent! India ranks No. 3 in TRF Contribution ($13.5 m) next only to Japan and USA.” He urged past, present and future district governors assembled at the meet “to make sure your clubs provide water facilities in schools first — borewells and their proper maintenance.” To this, PDG V Rajkumar (D 3201) cited his District’s success in installing Rain Water Harvesting systems in schools to overcome the challenge.
Prabhakar appealed to the District Coordinators to include a session on WinS in the PETS of their respective Districts to educate and encourage the incoming club Presidents to implement the programme in their regions.
PDG Ramesh Aggarwal (D 3012), Member Secretary and Zonal Coordinator for the Northern Districts gave an in depth account of all that WinS involves. “It is most important to note that clubs have to work only with government schools and not with government-aided or private schools,” he clarified. The Rotary working group would follow a three-star approach created by UNICEF wherein each club and the school it selects will work together to meet a certain criteria that will label it as one-star, two-star or three-star (Refer Box). “Clubs can do this through global grants, district grants or service projects,” he said.
Answering a question from PDG Rajendra Rai (D 3190) on budget, Gupta said the Committee had none. “Convince the school cabinet to raise funds.” DG ISAK Nazar suggested that Rotary clubs identify corporate donors to sponsor or undertake maintenance work. PDG Jashti Ranga Rao (D 3150) suggested involving SMCs and the local panchayats. Gupta urged them to involve Rotaractors, Interactors and the RCCs to do the base line mapping of schools and to educate students on hygiene.
PDG R Benjamin Cherian (D 3230) suggested making a documentary to educate adolescent girls in menstrual hygiene and safe disposal of sanitary napkins, and PDG R Raghunath (D 3211) wanted an exclusive website and logo for WinS.
Recalling Cherian’s massive ‘Schools to Smiles’ project that gave a facelift to 100 schools in the District and RRFC Raja Seenivasan’s ‘Happy Villages’ project, he suggested all these schools and villages be brought in the ambit of WinS. “That’s why I say achieving the magic figure (489) is not difficult.”
The coordinators provided the number of schools they would undertake and the final count came to 6,387 schools to be adopted by 15 Districts of Zone 5. Announcing this, Prabhakar said, “That is 64 per cent of the total target of 10,000 schools.”
IIMA makes it case study
S N Srikanth, President of RC Madras, described his club’s success in making Amarampedu, a village near Chennai, open-defecation free, in a record nine months through a novel ‘triggering’ plan and how behavioural modification among the villagers made it happen. This experiment has become so popular that the case study “has been adopted by IIM-Ahmedabad and I am also presenting this at the São Paulo Convention,” he said.
PDG Ravi Vadlamani (D 3150), presenting the WinS progress in A P, Telengana and Karnataka said, “Out of the 489 schools, 395 falls under my region. My District, 3150, has the maximum number of schools to be covered (244).” On a lighter note, he urged his team to get the job done fast and he would invite RID Prabhakar for the inauguration. Prabhakar agreed to do so “as long as you don’t put my photo on the toilet structures.”
“Section 125 of Income Tax Act is a powerful tool to raise funds for toilets… CII has launched a huge programme on CSR for construction of toilets. Rotary clubs can explore this avenue for funding,” Vadlamani added.
Nazar gave another valuable tip: “Almost 37 per cent of money allotted to MPs and MLAs for community projects are returned unutilised. With proper planning and networking, we can tap these resources.”
Pictures by Jaishree
Elements of WASH
Rotary India WinS programme has laid down 7 key elements:
- Water for drinking, cleaning/flushing toilets, cleaning school premises and vessels used for mid-day meals, hand washing
- Sanitation includes gender-specific toilets, one unit for every 40 students
- Group hand washing
- Operation & Maintenance of all water and sanitation facilities, regular supply of cleaning materials and consumables, appointment of cleaners/sweepers and prompt repairs of water and sanitation facilities
- Menstrual hygiene which includes adequate private space for sanitary towels, disposal facilities such as incinerators and dust bins, availability of soaps, and menstrual education to girl students
- Behaviour change activities such as children cabinets, poster/wall paintings, competitions and other reading/activity-based learning methodologies
- Capacity building through development of right mix of skills, knowledge and experience by training teachers and SMCs; facilitation, finance and monitoring of WinS and equitable use of WASH facilities including promotion of hygiene.
Rotary leadership recommends the three-star approach which is a globally recognised system created by UNICEF to improve effectiveness of hygiene behaviour change programmes.
Daily routine to supervise hand washing, ideally before meal, cleaning of toilets and provision of soaps and water, use of drinking water bottles by all children.
Incremental improvements — Stress on hand washing after toilet use, installing hand washing stations and delivering menstrual hygiene education in schools; constructing additional and improved toilets and facilities for menstrual hygiene management; and low-cost point-of-use water treatment introduced in schools for children to have access to safe drinking water.
School facilities and systems upgraded to meet the national standards.