Updated: Jul 27, 2021
Karnataka chief minister B S Yediyurappa recently allocated Rs 100 crore
for the upkeep of toilets and water connections in the state budget.
For Archana KR, a social activist from Karnataka, documenting the pitiable conditions of government schools across the state was not just a social project or activism. It was personal. Having studied in a government school herself, Archana who hails from Sakleshpur had seen and faced the distraught conditions faced by girls at her schools who had to make do with the lack of toilets. Over the years as part of her job, when Archana started to make rounds of government-run schools, she realised that not much has changed in all these years. She decided to do something about the choked toilets and the lack of basic sanitation in government schools. Archana started a petition with Change.org and started actively taking the matter up with the state government. Two years on, her battle has borne fruits, the Karnataka government has allocated Rs 100 crore for the next two years to better the conditions of toilets in government schools and provide water connectivity.
Speaking to News18, Archana said, “While on rounds to these schools, I would often hear how girls have to skip classes or entire school days often due to the lack of hygienic toilets or water. At one school, students even informed me that the school toilet was shut for a whole year. This prompted me to take the problem up with the government.” Surveying more than 300 schools, Archana found that almost 70 percent of toilets were in a terrible condition and in rural Karnataka, her survey found over 27 percent of girls across the state are forced to drop out due to unavailability of proper hygiene in school toilets. Funds for these schools are allotted based on the number of students and other maintenance charges. The amount ranges between Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 and there’s a separate small amount set aside for painting, repairs but Archana feels that the amount is not sufficinet in terms of maintaining so many toilets. Armed with all that information, Archana took on the issue and started frequently tweeting about it. And finally, through the power of social media, her petition started to get traction until it caught the eye of the state education minister S Suresh Kumar in November last year, who responded in the affirmative. Earlier this month, when Karnataka put forth its budget, chief minister of Karnataka B S Yediyurappa in his budget speech allocated Rs 100 crore for the upkeep of toilets and water connections. Only the half battle, however, has been so far been won, the young activist feels, adding that implementation was equally important. “I am reaching out to the gram panchayat members and schools in the villages so that there can be a collaboration between them in order to help facilitate the building and upkeep of the toilet in those schools. We need people to understand the importance of proper hygiene and thus bring in behavioral changes in order to help them,” Archana said.