Several studies in India have revealed that lack of basic amenities like toilets, access to water and basic infrastructure creates an unwelcoming and non-conducive environment in government schools. This leads to a high rate of absenteeism which results in children dropping out of school. In this situation, girls are often the most affected.
Plan India is a strategic partner of Coca-Cola NDTV Support My School campaign, which was launched to work on revitalisation of schools. The campaign that began with Coca-Cola, NDTV and UN-Habitat, has now grown to include many partners. The approach adopted was to work on sanitation plus a model involving NGOs, community members and the private sector. So in addition to new or revitalised structures, access to water was made an important component. In all, five components, depending on the school, were revitalised:
- Access to sanitation
- Access to water
- Playing facilities
- Environmental upkeep and rainwater harvesting (based on need)
- Partner led intervention
Support My School is one of the biggest campaign of its kind in India. Through active engagement and leveraging various channels and through clutter breaking live television telethons, the campaign has reached out to millions across India, making them aware of these issues and how they can be solved together. The campaign is being implemented in 8 states, i.e. Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha.
Tackling gender inequality and exclusion
While the Government of India education policies work well to have children enrolled in schools, the issue needing most attention is retention of young adults in schools. One of the widely recognised reasons for children dropping out of schools is the lack of basic, age-appropriate, gender-and disability-friendly sanitation facilities, clean drinking water and a healthy school environment. Since hardware is prone to wear and tear, its maintenance was budgeted to make sure that children neither cleaned nor paid for cleaning. Even though children are trained on clean usage of toilets, the general upkeep is assigned to a cleaning vendor. The budgetary provision included cleaning materials to ensure dignity of labour.
Strengthening Plan’s accountability
Children, teachers and SMC members were involved during the assessment and planning phase for each of the schools. Before initiating the project activities, the list of items and processes were shared with the teachers and SMCs for the monitoring process. Orientation on child protection guidelines during the construction/renovation phase were shared with the key stakeholders. The contracts signed with the construction vendors ensured that no pregnant women and children below 18 years of age were employed in physical labour.