Effective Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) in Schools Leads to Completion of Education and Decreases Girls’ Dropouts – Indian SME and Large Corporation Partnering in Support of Goals 6 and 4
India has had the dubious distinction of having the highest number of people practicing open defecation, more so in the rural areas. Supporting the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission), initiated in 2014 and SDGs adopted in 2015 – Banka BioLoo, an SME in the WaSH sector and Havells, one of India’s largest electrical equipment companies, formed a partnership to provide sanitation in schools in Alwar district of Rajasthan, in northern India. The companies, jointly, have been providing toilet blocks (for girls and boys, separately) with water and handwashing facility in 100 schools, for underprivileged children, every year since 2015.
The school sanitation program had multi-fold approaches, benefits and outreach. The bioloo is a sustainable sanitation solution – treating human waste onsite in a multi-chambered matriced bio-digester tank through bacteria inoculum. The innovative bioloo comprised precast ready-to-deploy toilet structures ensuring that the toilets were installed in a quick timeframe of one week, and factory-made bio-digester tanks. Providing WaSH in schools ensures that children attend their classes regularly, the girls benefit more as their privacy, security, safety is ensured and health & hygiene enhanced. The girl students don’t need to miss their classes during MHM, and don’t drop out of schools. Studies have been conducted to this effect by organizations and academicians.
The program/practice, with an SDG 6 (water and sanitation) focus, immensely supports Goal 4 (Education), and of course, incorporates SDG 16 (Partnerships to implement SDGs).
After the school sanitation program was inked between Havells and Banka BioLoo in 2015, the latter set up a production unit in Alwar to manufacture the bioloos and deployed a team, which steadily grew and mainly includes local youth for production and installation of bioloos in schools. Every year 100 schools are sanitized, with 8 bioloos in each school – 4 for boys and 4 for girls. This number could be increased or decreased depending on the students’ population in the school. Broad strategy of implementation was chalked out at the start of the program between the main stakeholders – Havells and Banka BioLoo. It included providing WaSH in the schools in which the mid-day meal program was ongoing. This ensured that a set of schools was already identified and available to implement, in the initial years of the program. The sample bioloo block was approved by Havells officers, in conjunction with school staff. Every six months, the managers and officers from the two organizations meet to review the progress, understand feedback from school staff and students. Informal and formal meetings with school officials take place monthly. These meetings also help identify potential unserved schools, as also incorporate feedback from existing schools. Project execution includes a brief survey among the schools where the program is to be implemented. This helps in need assessment and accordingly 4/8/12/16 bioloos are installed in the school depending on the student population. This is finalized between Havells, Banka BioLoo and school administration. Production of bioloo structures, bio-digester tanks and bacteria inoculum happens through the year. After the schools are identified, number of bioloos per school is finalized. Then the Banka BioLoo team takes the materials in lorries to the respective schools and bioloos are installed by the team. It’s a smooth process and all team members adhere to their duties and responsibilities ensuring that the school children get effective WaSH facilities for their daily needs.
The Alwar School Sanitation Program showed healthy results. Children’s attendance improved, and many parents told the school authorities that the children are happier and healthier. The children are keen to come to school every day, and don’t wish to miss classes. The families, too, have gained from the overall environment of cleanliness and sanitation, including through the messages brought home by young students. For instance, many families that didn’t have toilets at home (India has had the highest rate of open defecation) began constructing one, as the children shared their bioloo experience at home. Impact assessment study was done through Impact Lab of Business Call to Action, a platform of UNDP. The positive spill-over of the program is that more schools in the district look forward to having bioloos in their campus. School children, as ambassadors of water, sanitation and hygiene, carry the message of WaSH to their families and communities, triggering a multiplier effect.
The Alwar School Sanitation program/practice has many reasons to claim success. The willingness of the main stakeholder and contributor, Havells, was the main reason. Havells’s commitment to the cause of holistic education within the communities close to its production unit was the prime enabler. Banka BioLoo, the implementing partner, has school sanitation very close to its heart, and was equally keen to join. This was coupled with the desire of the school administration to provide water, sanitation and hygiene facility to the underserved students. The village elders, too, provided the moral support to the program.
The practice is, highly, scalable and replicable. In fact, it has been replicated in various states of India. The bioloos have been implemented in many other schools across India, and can be done so in other countries. The main components of bioloos, such as the toilet structures, bio-digester tanks and bacteria inoculum, are manufactured and produced at the plant, from where these are transported to the respective schools and the teams install them. There is no dependence on external entities at the site, ensuring rapid and hassle-free implementation. The bioloo is a sustainable sanitation solution, with environmentally-friendly waste treatment integrated. The costs are lower compared to traditional systems, and employs modern bio-digester technology to treat waste onsite. The solution is cost-effective as there is no expenditure for waste transportation and disposal after the bioloos are installed.
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