Cleanliness in School. How Important Is It?

Ankita’s mom was worried as her daughter was always falling sick. Her absentee in school was increasing, sometimes due to cold or stomach infection or some other illness. She couldn’t understand what was going wrong; was it the food or because viral infections were on the rise. There was one thing Ankita’s mom was overlooking. Ankita had just started going to her new school and since then, she was falling sick from time to time. 

What must be wrong with Ankita?

An article by Times of India dated January 2014 stated that, 

“The Right to Education Act requires students from first to fifth grade to spend 200 days involving 800 instructional hours in school and those from sixth to eighth standard to receive 1000 instructional hours over 200 days.”

Quite a number, isn’t it?

Children spend most of their time in school. Therefore, schools must maintain good hygiene conditions throughout the campus to avoid the spread of any disease or illness. After all, school is a public place; hence the spread of diseases is common if the premises are kept unclean. 

Furthermore, I would like to ask one simple question,

What exactly do you think or expect when searching for a good school for your child? 

Generally, when we are searching for that one perfect school for our children we look for the facilities the school is offering, the fee structure, the school’s affiliation, etc. We judge the school by amenities such as academic infrastructure, the vastness of the campus, facilities for extra-curricular activities, etc. But do we ever think about what provisions are there for cleanliness in school?

Are the toilets clean with all the necessary requirements?

Does the school encourage recycling?

Does the school provide a sustainable safe drinking facility to the students?

We don’t, because the importance of cleanliness in school is not always the first thing that crosses our mind. We forget to understand that a clean place is a safe place. Maintaining unhygienic conditions in schools can be very harmful. Diseases can spread easily if the toilets are not clean or the drinking water is adulterated. School is not just a place to learn but plays an important in the overall development of the child, physically as well as emotionally. A clean environment in school contributes to a healthy environment for the students to learn. On the other hand, it also encourages a good workplace environment for the teachers, eventually helping the kids to grow in a motivating and nurturing atmosphere.  

Keeping the health and hygiene of the school children in mind, the government had launched the Clean India: Clean Schools Campaign or the Swaach Bharat Swaach Vidyalaya Campaign in September 2014 after the launch of the Swaach Bharat Abhiyan. Every school must adhere to the clauses of this campaign to ensure good sanitation that eventually leads to good health of its students. 

Following are a few salient features of the Clean India: Clean School campaign as stated by UNICEF India:

  • Separate toilets for boys and girls, with one unit, generally having one toilet (WC) plus 3 urinals. The ratio to be maintained is preferably one unit for every 40 students.
  • Menstrual hygiene management facilities including soap, adequate and private space for changing, adequate water for cloth washing and disposal facilities for menstrual waste, including an incinerator and dust bins.
  • Sufficient group handwashing facilities allowing groups of 10-12 students to wash their hands at the same time. The handwashing station should be simple, scalable and sustainable, relying on usage of minimum water. These handwashing facilities can be developed using local materials.
  • Daily provision of child-friendly and sustainable safe drinking water and adequate water for handwashing. In addition water for school cleaning and also food preparation and cooking. Safe handling and storage of drinking water should be practised throughout the school.

Schools should strictly follow these norms and maintain good hygiene conditions throughout the campus.  

Along with these standard cleanliness norms, schools should make the children understand the importance of cleanliness.  One of the clauses of the Clean India: Clean Schools as per UNICEF India states that,

 “Girls must be taught menstrual hygiene management by female teachers in a sensitive and supportive manner and also take steps to encourage and support girls during menstruation so they do not miss school. This involves menstrual hygiene education sessions at school, along with steps to ensure that girls have a private place to wash and change their clothes.”

This is one of the important things the school management should consider while laying down the standards of cleanliness in school. It is the responsibility of the school to make children understand the importance of personal hygiene so that they also maintain clean toilets and do not practice any unclean habits in the toilets such as throwing the toilet paper on the floor, keeping the taps open, etc. Imbibing the value of personal hygiene in the students is one of the ways to maintain cleanliness in school. 

Schools can also encourage recycling by putting separate dustbins for recyclable and non-recyclable waste as a part of classroom cleanliness rules. Students should not litter anywhere on the school premises. In addition to that, teachers should make them understand why it is important to wash their hands before eating a meal. Generally, children follow the rule of washing hands only in their houses but they should follow the same practice in the school as well. This can be done under the supervision of the teachers during recess. The school should supervise if the students are wearing clean uniforms, clean shoes and if the nails are properly trimmed. 

Also, after a free period or a PT period, students should be advised to freshen up properly and dry themselves of any sweat before the starting of the next period. These things seem simple but contribute to a huge amount in the child’s life in the future. Schools should also involve the parents in any cleanliness campaigns or events. For instance, the management should organize cleanliness drive in school involving both parents and the children towards cleaning the surrounding or organize a screening of a documentary or film which gives the same message. Good Hygiene is eventually good health and we should give it our foremost priority. 

This year we celebrated 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. He stood by cleanliness his entire life and we can pay the greatest tribute to him by following good personal as well as public hygiene. Children must understand the value of cleanliness in school from an early age so that they learn to always keep their surroundings clean, on their own.

Also Read: Importance of Personal Hygiene in Kids.


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