Post-covid, WinS programmes critical for schools: RIPE Shekhar Mehta

A tree plantation drive was underway at a government school in Dharwad when PDG Ganesh Bhat, RID 3170, casually asked the principal about the reopening of the school and the preparation for it. “I was shocked when he said ‘we are not prepared.’ We have to strengthen the hygiene and sanitation efforts in our schools for the safety of our children. They are going to be at greater risk of contracting corona if we don’t take proper measures.” He said in his opening remarks at the multidistrict WinS seminar, hosted by RC Dharwad Central, RID 3170.

Students washing hands at a handwash station installed under WinS programme.
Students washing hands at a handwash station installed under WinS programme.

WASH in Schools projects have become even more critical now after the Covid pandemic. WinS volunteers will have to work even harder to bring behavioural change among students once the schools reopen, said RIPE Shekhar Mehta. The importance of handwash needs to be inculcated among students and in this regard, he urged the clubs to rope in Interactors for helping the programmes in government schools.

Mehta asked Rotarians to visit the schools where WinS programmes are being implemented and check if “the toilets are in good condition; water supply lines are clean and the quality of drinking water is good. Without proper upkeep of sanitation facilities, the hygiene conditions may deteriorate.” While inspecting the sanitation facilities and their repair works, some of which may be expensive, “it will be better if we partner with the local governments,” he said.

Appreciating the WinS leadership in India, Mehta said, “when they talk about literacy, they talk about me. When they talk about WinS, they immediately mention Ramesh Aggarwal. That is how you create your niche and I am sure that you will do everything it takes to gear up for the reopening of schools.” To a suggestion from WinS Target Challenge global chair PRID P T Prabhakar on the need to continue with this pilot programme that ends in June 2021 as a shield against Covid till a vaccine is found for the virus, Mehta said, “you have done a wonderful job with WinS, but the global success rate of its implementation will determine its extension.”

In his address, Prabhakar explained the importance of WinS programmes to ensure hygiene among school students and the change this project has brought in 40,000 government schools across the country since 2016. The figure is poised to touch one lakh schools by 2025. “We don’t stop with just building toilets and providing handwash stations, but also make sure these are maintained for two years,” he said.

WinS national chair Ramesh Aggarwal said his team is also training school faculties and managements on the new safety measures to tackle the new hygiene challenges posed by the Covid outbreak. “Let us also focus on reducing the school dropouts due to ill-health and lack of toilet facilities in schools,” he said. DG Sangram Patel appreciated the efforts of RC Dharwad Central for hosting “this much needed and necessary seminar which offered a platform for district leaders to share experiences and learn good WinS practices.”

Rethi Bhora from RISAO presented the WinS Target Challenge framework, TRF’s process for review and approval of the global grant applications for this programme.

Close to 400 participants from 17 countries attended the webinar.

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