Safe Water and Sanitation for Students

Students on Sagar Island in West Bengal, India feel a sense of ownership over their school’s water and sanitation facilities.

“The students are proud that their school has these facilities, and they want to maintain them,” says Sovan Chandra, a teacher at the school.

The daily morning assembly reminds students about the importance of health and hygiene, and they all participate in extracurricular activities that foster an understanding of the value of safe water and sanitation.

“With proper water and sanitation facilities, the children are healthier and learn better,” says Sovan.

But it wasn’t always this way in Sagar Island.

Before the school installed updated water and sanitation facilities, there were no drinking water or handwashing stations, and the toilets were insufficient and unhygienic. Most students would leave school during the day to go home to use the toilet, or go out to the field for open defecation. Teenage girls often missed school when they were on their periods.

Now, with new toilet blocks, running water, menstrual hygiene resources, and drinking and handwashing stations, students are healthier, missing school less, and are more engaged in the classrooms.

“As a teacher, I observed remarkable change among the students after having improved sanitation and drinking water,” Sovan says. “All students are consistently at school, and adolescent girls are able to attend regularly.”

Riya is on the student committee that promotes proper water and sanitation usage and good hygiene practices throughout the school.

“Now everything has changed,” she says. “We have privacy and feel comfortable. We are very happy coming to school now.”

Riya is not only promoting the importance of these practices at school, but also bringing what she learns home to her family. She even convinced her parents to install running water to their household toilet.

“My dream is that all the students of every school and the people of all communities will get the benefits of safe water and hygienic sanitation,” Riya says.

This year, Riya’s dream came closer to coming true. Every school in Sagar Island has reliable water and sanitation services, ensuring that the students in Sagar’s 121 schools have the services they need to learn and stay healthy.

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