Poor sanitation at schools hits girls badly

Kathmandu, November 20

Astha Pariyar, 13, is studying in Grade VII in Ramkot Higher Secondary School, Hanspur, Dansimarang, Pokhara. During menstruation, she remains absent from class for four to five days. “There is not enough water in the school toilet. Poor sanitation in my school only adds to my mental stress during my menstruation.”

Another girl from the same school, Esika Nepali, now in Grade VIII, blames increased absenteeism of female students on lack of water in the school.

“If I have my periods during school time, I return home and never go back until it stops,” she said. “Here in our village, it is difficult to fetch water even for drinking. So people think less abut use of water in toilets,” she added.

Kaski was declared the first open defecation free district of the country. But shortage of water has adversely impacted toilet sanitation in the district.

Ana Paudel, who teaches at Indrayani Primary School of Dansimarang, informed that the school did not have enough drinking water for students and therefore water for toilet use was its secondary consideration. “Being teachers, even we have to run to our houses to change our sanitary pads as our school toilet lacks proper sanitation.”

As a provisional measure, we have been providing sanitary pads to students, said Bharat Bhattrai, principal of Ramkot Higher Secondary School. “Our village is facing water shortage. We harvest rainwater and drink it. We only use waste water in our toilets and the water is not sufficient,” he said.

“In other seasons the idea somehow works. But once the dry season begins, we come under acute water crisis and girl students during their periods appear less in the school,” said Rajendra Raj Bhattarai, principal of Indrayani Primary School. While declaring any district an ODF district, the government should also think about maintaining sanitation in schools, he opined.

According to professor Nawaraj Khatiwada, an expert, only having toilets will not ensure citizens’ right to sanitation, but sanitation should also be maintained in such facilities. He added that toilets should be friendly to use for the differently-abled, females and children. “The condition of toilets in village area is very poor and therefore parents, teachers, and other stakeholders need to seriously think about the health of students,” he  said.