Enabling Policy Environment for Wash in Schools


The School Sanitation and Hygiene Education (SSHE) program started in India in 1999. Included under a flagship program Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), the priority areas of SSHE is to provide water, sanitation and hand washing facilities in the schools and promote behavioural change through hygiene education, and linking the same to home and community. In addition, TSC also aims to provide early childhood development centres for childre under 5 in villages, known as Anganwadi centres, with toilet facilities to inculcate toilet use amongst children as well as mothers attending the Anganwadis. The Department of Drinking Water Supply under the Government of India implements SSHE program.

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), launched in 2000-2001, is the Government of India’s flagship program for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time bound manner. Its overall goals include universal access and retention, bridging of gender and social category gaps in education and enhancement of learning levels of children. SSA provides for a variety of interventions, including the opening of new schools and alternate schooling facilities, construction of schools and additional classrooms, toilets and drinking water, provisioning for teachers, periodic teacher training and academic resource support, textbooks and support for learning achievement. These provisions need to be aligned with the legally mandated norms and standards and free entitlements mandated by the Right to Education Act. The Department of Elementary Education and Learning oversees the implementation of the SSA.

The Government of India launched the Right to Education Act (RTE) in April 2009. The RTE Act provides a legally enforceable rights framework with certain time targets that Governments must adhere to. The Schedule to the RTE Act lays down the norms and standards (including drinking water and sanitation) for a school building. A school building has to be an all-weather building comprising of at least one classroom for every teacher, barrier free access, separate toilets for boys and girls, safe and adequate drinking water facility for all children, arrangements for securing the school building boundary wall or green fencing, a kitchen for cooking mid-day meals, a playground, and teaching–learning materials.

The Approach Paper for the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012) commits to full coverage of schools with drinking water and sanitation facilities by the end of 2012, and coverage of 133,114 Anganwadi Centers with sanitation facilities in the same period.

UNICEF is a key partner of the government in the WASH in Schools program in India. Across the 14 states that UNICEF is working, partnerships have been forged with the Department of Education which implements SSA, Department of Rural Development and the Department of Panchayati Raj, which implements drinking water and sanitation programs in the states.

Quality and Coverage of WASH in Schools Programming

TSC has developed standard design norms for school toilet facilities and urinals, according to the cost allocation per unit. These designs are followed in most of the states. The cost per unit was revised in July 2010, increased from Rs. 20,000/- per unit to Rs. 35,000/- per unit. Each unit consists of one toilet for 80-120 girls or boys separately, and 3-4 urinals, each of which is supposed to cater to 20 to 40 boys or girls separately.

District Information System for Education (DISE), started formally in 2005-2006, is a national level monitoring system which is the most comprehensive MIS system. School report cards of 1.3 mln rural and urban schools were developed in 2009-2010, and aggregated at the national level. Performance indicators in terms of school category; ratio of primary to upper primary schools/sections; enrolment distribution dropout rate, retention rate, and transition rate from primary to upper primary level are collected. Quality indicators according to category of schools, teacher-pupil ratio; students classroom ratio; availability of drinking water, common toilet and girl’s toilet in school, etc. are also collected as part of DISE. Every year, the data is collected from the schools in September. Last year, data on functionality of toilets was also generated.
Another study known as Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) conducted since 2005, and led by an NGO Pratham, is being widely accepted in the country as an independent voice. The survey has been conducted since 2005 and each year the entire effort from start to finish takes about 100 days. The report is released in January every year. The findings are disseminated widely within the government and outside at the national, state, district and village levels. This year, ASER generated evidence from about 13,000 schools, which were selected using a rigorous sampling methodology.

The findings of the survey have been referred to in the approach paper to the 11th Planning Commission and several state governments use the findings to define their educational programs each year.

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UNICEF’s support to the WASH in Schools programme has been multidimensional. UNICEF provides support to develop technical designs, defining norms and standards, demonstrating child friendly concepts, and training to staff responsible for the construction of toilets within the government’s Sarva Shikha Abhiyan (SSA). Support is also being provided to develop monitoring indicators to enhance the quality of implementation.

A detailed school mapping tool was developed for teachers and students, where WASH is a critical component, in Maharashtra. In Tamil Nadu, monthly monitoring Star Card System for monitoring functionality, operation and maintenance have ensured that toilets constructed are also used and maintained. Validation studies carried out in schools and Anganwadi centers in Gujarat provides evidence on usage and functionality of toilets and drinking water facilities. In UP, for instance, the technical standards for schools toilets were accepted, printed and shared with all 820 block officials in 71 districts. A total of 2,400 toilets were upgraded using this concept, leveraging about $2 million USD in government funds. Technological innovations continue to be promoted in many of the states. Inclusive, child, gender, and disabled-friendly designs were demonstrated in states. In Bihar, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, normal hand pump were converted into a child-friendly force-and-lift pump to ensure water availability inside the school toilet unit and hand washing facility. These were demonstrated in more than 500 schools.

UNICEF has supported the development of resource materials to promote hygiene education and piloted the materials in target primary and upper primary schools. These resource materials incorporate key messages into a set of teachers guide books, supplementary reading materials, other materials like games, posters, songs, etc. In many states, these materials have been distributed by the School Education Department to all primary and upper primary schools, and are being regularly used in schools. Global Handwashing Day is celebrated every year since 2008, in partnership with State Education Department, Department of Rural Development or Dept. of Water Supply and Sanitation. UNICEF provided support in developing resource materials, teachers guide books and reference materials on hand washing with soap. Last year, about 44 million children were reached in more than 5 lakh schools in 14 states.

In many states, UNICEF is supporting the 20 day in-service mandatory teacher training program, under SSA, by incorporating WASH and hygiene issues,as a part of the training design. Along with SSA and Department of Education, training modules and resource materials on hygiene for teachers have been developed and key resource persons trained. Hand washing with soap before mid-day meals is being actively promoted in all states and provisions are made for hand washing facilities in schools. Provisions of soap are generally made through the School Maintenance Grant allocated to every school. Three types of grants are provided to all elementary schools in the country.

These are:
a) School Maintenance Grant for infrastructure upkeep
b) Development Grant for operation and administration and
c) Teaching Learning Material Grant, which goes directly to the teachers, and is meant for extracurricular
teaching materials.

Apart from this, under SSA, grants are also provided for building additional classrooms. These grants have a significant bearing on the day-to-day functioning of the school, especially relating to maintenance, administrative expenses, teaching materials etc. An independent national report called the PAISA report tracks fund flows and expenditures under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. It is the first country-wide citizen-led effort to track development expenditures. In 2010, the PAISA survey covered 13,021 primary and upper primary schools across the country that tracked the expenditure of the School Grants, under SSA which is India’s primary vehicle for implementing the RTE Act.  The annual PAISA survey is conducted through the annual ASER survey that tracks learning outcomes.


National WASH related data

India has made great progress on reducing unimproved water sources in India – this has dropped from 28% of the population in 1990 to 12% in 2008. In population terms this means 100 million people gained access to an improved water source. Drinking coverage in urban areas (98%) is significantly higher than rural coverage (88%).

493 million people (68% of rural population) have increased access to sanitation facilities since 1990. 1990: 45 mln (source: JMP) 2011: 538 mln. (Source: DDWS) 25,145 Gram Panchayats (village local governments) have achieved Total Sanitation, covering a total of 80.4 million. 10% of the total Gram Panchayats are Open Defecation Free.

Organizations Working in Wash in Schools


Ministry of Rural Development

Ministry of Panchayati Raj