Cleanliness as Curriculum
The teaching and practice of personal hygiene in schools is of paramount importance. Other than teachers and parents, it is of prime concern for the State to imbibe the ethos of personal cleanliness to school toddlers. The problem is enormous. Luckily, the way out is also not out of reach for the interested and willing institutions. Rajneesh Sharma broaches the issue of swallowing the lesson of hygiene amongst the youngsters.
Education is the most important element for growth and prosperity of a nation. India is in the process of transforming itself into a developed nation by 2020. Yet we have 350 million people who need literacy and many more who have to acquire employable skills to suit the emerging modern India and the globe. A majority of the government schools and colleges in the country are in dilapidated state. There is no one look after maintenance and upkeep of many of these institutions. Many have closed and have become a monumental spots.
Though most of the private high-end schools and higher education institutes, charging huge fees, have started to impart and practice cleanliness but still institutions run by state governments are in dilapidated state. My recent experience at various colleges in Delhi, while visiting them for the admission of my son, was extremely disheartening. The state of affairs is really bad. Though the government releases funds for every college before the start of each academic session, there is no will of the college management to upgrade the standards of cleaning and hygiene at their premises. It was a nightmare for my son who studied in a school (K.R. Mangalam World School) where cleaning and hygiene is of utmost importance.
Today Indian students are doing exceptionally well in the international arena. We proudly boast the standard of education in India matching the international curriculum. But are we offering our students the world class facilities at our schools & colleges. Barring few institutions most even does not provide basic hygienic facilities. The canteens are pest rooms and washrooms are factories for creating probable patients.
Important as that subject is, it is time that educationists, policy planners, health departments, environmentalists and parents of the teeming millions who study in Indian educational institutions take cognizance of the subtle and sure influence that the school and educational environment produces in impressionable minds.
Amusingly, there are many schools in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar where there are no blackboards, tents, desks and in certain cases, teachers. However, such bizarre circumstances exist not only in some far removed place in a northeastern state or a UP hamlet. The sanitary conditions in the capitals schools will be an eye opener to the smug complacency of the pontificating city dweller.
In the capital, there is a wide gap in the private schools and the government run and aided ones. Not only schools, even higher seats of learning are woefully lacking in clean and hygienic atmosphere.
Says dean welfare of Delhi University, “It is indeed a sorry state of affairs that so many years after independence, we are still groping in the dark in matters of providing clean and wholesome environment to the average student in rural and in many cases, urban India.” The fee structure in most schools does not clearly enunciate the slot for maintenance. Usually, the donations asked for surreptitiously and often boldly, are for the school building fund. The students or parents rarely question whether the building is maintained properly or not. It is also often glossed over by the school authorities.
The school years have a very vital influence on the building of attitudes, impressions and outlook towards society and cleanliness in the personal and social sphere. For a child, the maximum time of his or her formative years is spent in the educational environment. All through teens, the child sees the role of the institutions through his idealist eyes and forms opinions and subliminal impressions of his or her responsibilities towards society and civic sense.
A lax attitude towards keeping the premises clean is a disincentive for the child to develop good civic sense and even personal hygiene.
In those situations where there are no rooms, classrooms or roof above the head, the parameters are widely different and the issues are totally separate. It would be quite an exercise to note the situation prevalent in those educational institutes where the basic or essential elements are not in place. It is not only schools and colleges but even the professional institutes like IITs and IIMs that need to be studied afresh. Most Medical colleges, which are supposed to be the nursery for the country’s medical brigade, present a sad state of affairs.
The conditions of even leading professional institutes need much to be desired and accomplished. However, it is heartening to see an awareness arising in them regarding maintaining high standards. All said and done it is more the exception than the rule.
How big is the problem?
The problem is enormous. Luckily, the way out is also not out of reach for the interested and willing institution. According to the principal of a reputed school in Delhi, we understand the relevance of the clean and hygiene requirements and incorporated high standards in developing the property.
The practice of personal hygiene by the school children depends on many factors, not the least important being the example set by the teacher. Not only must the teacher’s personal cleanliness be of a high standard but his physique and general health must also be good. To ensure this no teacher should be appointed without passing a medical examination of fitness approved by the Government of the District or State.
The teaching and practice of personal hygiene in schools is of paramount importance and it is necessary to draw their attention to the need for encouraging personal cleanliness amongst the school children and for providing the facilities required for the attainment of a high degree of personal cleanliness.
Cleaning & Maintaining Premises
For maintaining the cleanliness of its premises few schools uses a combination of both in-house staff as well as the help of outside agencies. Right now the ratio between in-house endeavor and the help of outside agencies will be in the region 75:25. But the role of outside agencies is going to grow as the requirement for professional and hassle free services, which these agencies can provide. Besides, these agencies and specialists offer their expertise coupled with their experience. The staff receives on-the-job training for this purpose. When it comes to the maintenance of lawns, they have an expert with horticulture background to assist them. Similarly the maintenance of cleanliness and hygiene standard of the swimming pool has been entrusted to a specialist who along with the lifeguards monitors the area. These experts and agencies are normally given six months contract and a proper assessment of the quality of their services is made after this tenure. Besides, MCD and in-house staff take care of water logging and fumigation etc. at regular intervals. These schools are also doing water harvesting in their premises to raise the groundwater level.
For places like laboratory, where maintenance of cleanliness is critical, they have an internal system comprising people like lab assistants and their minimum qualification is B.Sc. They also receive in-house training. Disposal of waste in the form of chemicals etc. is done to a separate tank. The potable water provided to the students is filtered both in the tank stage as well as where it runs through the tap. Aqua guard systems are fitted everywhere. Cleanliness and hygiene of the canteen is of utmost importance and the maintenance of it is under direct supervision of the management.
These schools also have an environment club which aims at inculcating a sense of cleanliness and environment friendliness among the students. Besides, as a punishment sometimes students are made to pick all plastic material lying in the premises.
Inspection in Schools
In a number of schools across the country, the teachers hold cleanliness parades. In some schools the parades take place daily, in others weekly or biweekly, in others a cleanliness parade is held only at the time of the school doctor’s visit. Parade inspection is most suitable for the younger classes. A daily parade of the school children before the school starts gives the teacher an opportunity of judging the cleanliness standards of the children and of supervising the practice of cleanliness. When clean and hygiene issues are raised at the personal level, there is a corresponding awareness about cleaning up the surroundings.
There has been a proactive effort by the government on this. The question of environmental hygiene was not extensively discussed since the School Buildings Committee appointed by the Central Advisory Board of Education is already dealing with this subject. A series of questions were sent by the government, which was intended to test the waters and see the levels of understanding of cleanliness and hygiene amongst school authorities.
There are many techniques and machines that reduce cleaning time by more than half and help the worker to do his job more efficiently. In a vital establishment like a school or college, a clean environment provides the right atmosphere for development of minds.
The necessity for providing safe water supply in schools requires special emphasis. The Committee recommended that, whatever be the source of supply, each school should have some type of container in which wholesome water, kept under lock and key, is made available to the children through a tap.
As regards the provision of latrines, the Committee observed that for schools in rural and suburban areas, the bored-hole type of latrine offers a satisfactory solution in most areas. It is cheap to construct as well as to maintain and should prove satisfactory in every way for preventing soil pollution in and around the school premises. Contrast this with the upmarket schools in the metros and the dichotomy is clearly seen.
The attention now devoted by school authorities to environmental hygiene is not sufficient. It was announced by the Ministry that all officers inspecting schools, whether they belong to the Education, Medical or Public Health Departments, should report on the sanitary condition of the premises and the surroundings and bring any anomaly to the notice of the education authorities.
But no permanent improvement of the environment can be expected until the school children and their teachers begin to take an active interest in keeping the school premises clean. Cooperative effort among the children for the cleaning up of the school and its surrounding areas should be encouraged. The children can also take part in other forms of communal health activity.
However, the fact remains that whether it is the up-market educational institutions or the laid-back government school, cleanliness standards are still a far cry. The educational institution is the laboratory of the young mind. If the schools pay proper attention towards clean and hygiene in the school premises, not only does it reflect on the academics but ultimately turns into societal pressures to conform to higher standards. Only then will the schools become the true crucibles for cleanliness.