Chennai: Unhygienic toilets cause hardship to schoolchildren

Students of some Corporation schools in Chennai have little choice

CHENNAI: Students in some of the Corporation schools in the city are in a fix. They cannot use the toilet when they need to, due to lack of hygiene and poor maintenance.

The stench near the primary block in the Corporation-run school in Saidapet was unbearable. Going past the toilet block to get to the headmistress’ office is a very difficult task. But hundreds of children have little choice.

With the entire area outside the toilet wet with water leaking from one of the pipes, the space clearly flouts even the basic norms of hygiene. “I don’t use the toilet everyday, but today, I had to,” said a class VI student.

The toilets at another school in West Mambalam were not usable for weeks together because of a sewage block. “I complained to the engineer in the Works Department [of the Corporation] several times, but he kept telling us that they did not have funds,” said the headmaster.

Later, thanks to a school function that the Mayor was to participate in, the Works Department official was forced to attend to the issue, fearing that the students might complain to the Mayor.

“In the case of government schools some delay is understandable since they have to coordinate with the Public Works Department. But in the case of Corporation schools, why should action be delayed when the civic body has a Works Department to look at these matters?” he asked.

Vasantha Balakrishnan, former headmistress, Presidency Government Girls Higher Secondary School, said that about five years ago, the toilets in many government and local body schools were in very bad condition. “However, things have improved now. In addition to the School Education Department’s efforts, organisations such as the Rotary and Lions Clubs have contributed significantly.”

Emphasising the need for proper toilet facilities, she said that school heads should push for adequate facilities. “Girls, particularly those who have reached puberty, cannot manage otherwise.”

Agreeing with her, the head of a girls’ school in Central Chennai said some girls even dropped out of school because of this.

“Sometimes, even our staff toilets are pathetic. We know the difficulty faced by students, but we are helpless.” she said, adding that teachers put in their own money to buy disinfectants.

“I almost never use the toilet at school. If I go in, I’ll feel nauseous,” said a high school girl of the school.

Health issues

The habit of refraining from using the toilets could have serious medical implications, according to Sarada Suresh, Director, Institute of Child Health.

“We do hear of many children not using the toilets in school. They also end up drinking less water. But this could cause formation of stones in the kidney,” she said, referring to the increasing number of cases of children with small stones in the kidney.

“Also girls having their periods should change their napkins often. They might get reproductive track infections due to poor hygiene. In fact, lack of hygiene can lead to host of skin and other infections, too,” she said.

When contacted, Mayor M. Subramanian said: “We are particular about the infrastructure in schools. If students, teachers or heads bring up specific issues, we will certainly attend to them immediately.”

Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni said: “We have outsourced labour for cleaning and maintenance now. School heads should supervise their work. We are also taking up regular inspections.”

Meera Srinivasan From THE HINDU

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Thanjavur: Heavy rain lashes districts in delta region

Holiday for Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Pudukottai

THANJAVUR: Heavy rain lashed Thanjavur and Tiruvarur districts on Tuesday. Low-lying areas were inundated and water stagnation was reported in paddy fields in some areas. While so far there is no crop damage, continuation of rain hereafter may inundate and damage crops.

M. S. Shanmugham, Thanjavur Collector, said that agriculture department officials have been asked to make an assessment on Wednesday and take steps to save the standing samba crop by advising precautionary methods.

Samba crop is in different stages in the two districts and harvest is expected to commence from second week of January.

Rainfall recorded in the last 24 hours till eight a.m. on Tuesday: Muthupettai 91.4 mms, Tiruvarur 46.8 mms, Thanjavur 45 mms, Thiruthuraipoondi 44.6 mms, Pattukottai 38 mms, Valangaiman 37.5 mms, Needamangalam 36 mms, Madukkur 31 mms, Orathanadu 29 mms, Nannilam 27.5 mms, Mannargudi 27 mms, Kodavasal 23.6 mms, Kumbakonam 18.5 mms and Papanasam 14 mms.

Nagapattinam

The week-long rain that lashed the district promised some respite with the retreat of the cyclone. However, with just few hours of sunny weather on Sunday, rain continued relentlessly into its second week here in the district.

Thirupoondi, Sirkazhi, Nagapattinam and other parts of district experienced heavy rain throughout the day on Tuesday. Roads and housing colonies in low-lying areas were inundated.

Union Territory of Karaikal experienced intermittent but heavy rain through the day.

Vedaranyam recorded the maximum rainfall of 189.8 mm in the last 24 hours that ended at 8 a.m. on Tuesday. The following are the chief amounts of rainfall in the district: Manalmedu 48.4mm, Thalainayar 48.2 mm, Nagapattinam 44.6 mm, Mayiladuturai 42 mm, Thirutharaipoondi 30 mm, Tharangambadi 26.6 mm, Sirkazhi 13.1 mm, Kollidam 12 mm, with the recorded average rainfall of 50.52 mm.

A holiday has been declared for schools in Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Pudukottai districts on Wednesday.

Mr. Shanmugham and M.Chandrasekaran, Collector of Tiruvarur district, have issued orders for closure of the schools on Wednesday.

In Nagapattinam, exams scheduled for Wednesday have been postponed to January 4, according to an official press release.

All schools will remain closed in Pudukottai district , according to Collector A. Suganthai.

From THE HINDU

Vellore: Hostels planned for forest schools

Meeting held to create awareness of District Forest Right Protection Act 2006 

PUDURNADU: The Forest Department has plans to provide hostel facility for 11 forest schools in Vellore district, A.V. Venkatachalam, District Conservator of Forest, said here on Tuesday.

He was participating at a meeting to create awareness of District Forest Right Protection Act 2006, organised by the Tamil Nadu Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Department. He said that at present, students coming from interior areas found it difficult to continue their education. A demand for the hostels was put forth by a section of tribals in the district.

Mr. Venkatachalam said that many of the forest schools faced shortage of teachers. Initially, the government had recommended appointing teachers who had registered with the employment exchange on seniority basis. But, the teachers who were appointed hesitated to work in tribal areas. A petition was submitted to Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and the government, in the month of September, issued an order stating that teachers need not be recruited on seniority basis through the employment exchange. The Forest Department could recruit teachers by placing advertisement and the only criteria considered would be qualification.

To get over the problem of shortage of teachers, the department had taken steps to recruit qualified tribal youth on temporary basis, Mr. Venkatachalam said.

Further, the department had spent Rs.5 crore on construction of additional school buildings and maintenance of existing schools during last year. Infrastructure in forest schools had been upgraded. As a step to enable tribal youth to become engineers and doctors, computer course had been introduced in the schools since last year, he said.

Referring to bad road condition in forest areas where the tribals lived, Mr. Venkatachalam said laying of new roads in forest areas was not an easy task as lot of formalities had to be completed.

A total of 117 km of road in the district come under the forest area. If a new road is laid in an area, it is mandatory to set up a Forest Department check-post. Lot of cost was involved in this and some of the areas could not be opened to the public. Some of the forest areas were in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh border and increased vigil has to be maintained to check the movement of naxalites.

Mr. Venkatachalam said that despite the situation, the Forest Department had sought permission for lying 14 new roads in forest areas of the district. The demand to expand 15 km of road from Tirupattur to Pudurnadu would be considered. Roads would also be laid from Pudurnadu to Nellivasalnadu. This would help the Transport Department to introduce bus service from Pudurnadu to Nellivasalnadu. Some of the roads that would be newly laid are from Ambur to Nayakaneri, Polur to Jamunamarathur and Amrithi to Jamunamarathur.

Earlier, Mr. Venkatachalam handed over a sum of Rs. one crore to the Animal Husbandry Department to purchase milch cows and goats to the Scheduled Tribes. He also requested the Pudurnadu tribals to understand the District Forest Right Protection Act-2006 and make best use of it.

Tirupattur Sub-Division Sub-Collector Nandhakumar, Pernambut MLA A. Chinnasamy, Councillor A.K. Arunachalam and Pudurnadu panchayat president K. Natarajan spoke. District Adi Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Officer V.Swarnalatha welcomed the gathering.

From THE HINDU

Kathmandu: UNICEF to launch awareness campaign on swine flu in schools

KATHMANDU: With a view to inform the schoolchildren of the menace of Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Nepal has embarked on an awareness campaign in different schools under the Avian Influenza Project (AIP).

The move follows recent swine flu-scare throughout the nation.

After the initial phase of campaign in Kathmandu Valley schools, UNICEF is launching the awareness campaign in schools of the five districts in Jhapa, Illam, Sunsari, Morang and Chitwan.

Binoy Dil Lama, the project officer, said that the first round of briefing and orientation on the swine flu was concluded recently in 65 schools, including the +2 colleges, of Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur.

“The AIP works with ‘Green Plus,” a student organisation, he said, adding, “a meeting would be held next week with the Private and Boarding Schools’ Organisation of Nepal (PABSON) and the Department of Education.

An orientation programme has also been planned for the District Education Officer (DEO) about the issue.

Lama of UNICEF has urged the schools not to close them down on seasonal flu but suggested the government to take sample test and make it conformed before closing the schools.

He said that they had introduced a package programme for addressing the present situation where they had given two hours of training to teachers and students with the objective of bringing awareness.

“Local NGOs are helping us in this project,” added programme officer. The jingle and advertising song related to the disease is going to be on air from December 15.

From HimanayanTimes

Ooty: Nilgiris schools, colleges to remain closed for two more days

Udhagamandalam: All educational institutions in the Nilgiris would remain closed for two more days, said the Nilgiris Collector Anandrao V. Patil.

Addressing a press conference here on Sunday, Mr. Patil said over 1000 landslides had occurred in various parts of the Nilgiris during the recent rains. Between Burliar and Ooty alone, there had been about 150 landslides. Special teams had been formed to expedite restoration works, he said.

Mr. Patil said 43 persons had died. The relief amount had been distributed to the families of the victims. About 2,548 flood affected persons were being taken care of in 25 relief camps. Stating that about 106 km of State highways had been damaged, Mr. Patil said that standing potato crop on 221 hectares worth Rs. 5.35 crore had been lost.

From THE HINDU

Sierra Leone – 300,000 children out of School- UNICEF report

Out of School Children in Magburaka

UNICEF in collaboration with the Ministry of Education Youths and Sports (MEYS) yesterday released a report which revealed that there are about 300,000 children who are out of school in Sierra Leone.

The report, which is titled: ‘The Out-of-School Children in Sierra Leone’ examines the causes and categories of children who are not going to school and makes recommendations to tackle the issue.

Children who are out of school

Children who are out of school

Sheku Ahmed Tejan Tanu who chaired the launching ceremony of the report said research plays an important role in the socio-economic development of any country.

He explained that it is only through research that problems could be identified and solutions found.

The chairman called on all to read and digest the recommendations made in the report, so that children out of school in Sierra Leone will be a thing of the past.

Deputy UNICEF Representative Vidhya Ganesh reaffirmed their institutional commitments.

She said, “What this country needs is human capacity, after the civil war and brain drain.”  Vidhya Ganesh explained that the quality of education does not come out as a major factor but “I do know that it is another problem… teachers need to be trained.”

She averred, “The recommendations are quite practical. The actions are possible and durable.”

She however noted that what is unclear is how fast work can be done to get out of the vicious cycle.

In his keynote address the Deputy Minister of Education Dr Lansana Nyalla spoke about government’s position; policies and programmes to ensure access to quality and free primary education for all.

Though the government has policy on compulsory free primary education, yet the often high indirect cost levied on poor families was reported as another cause of children dropping out of school.

The children out of school are likely to be the disabled, orphans or those living away from their biological parents.

Furthermore, children especially those in remote rural areas find it difficult to walk long distances to school.

Teenage pregnancy is also another major factor that keeps children out of school.

The increase in teenage pregnancies in both rural and urban communities, that tends to lead impoverished parents into not only stopping the educational support of these teenage parents but also other girl children in their families.

The report offers all stakeholders in the educational sector an opportunity to develop better targeted programmes and advocate for stronger policies so that children can go and stay in school.   

The report revealed that poverty is the primary factor that keeps children out of school; many poor families desperately need the assistance of their children to generate income to help feed their families instead of going school.

Among schooling and non-schooling children interviewed, 87 per cent were found to be engaged in some form of income generating activities.
Sierra Leone remains at the bottom of the UNDP Human Development Index out of 177 countries in the world. Over two-thirds of the country’s 5.3 million people live below the poverty line earning less than $1 a day.

The average poor household spends 37 per cent below the required amount to meet their basic needs.

By Ophaniel Gooding – Awoko

Star cricketer Sachin Tendulkar promotes handwashing in India

By Angela Walker

CHANDIGARH, India, 16 October 2008 – Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and his teammates joined an estimated 100 million schoolchildren around the country yesterday in lathering up for better health and hygiene as part of the first Global Handwashing Day.

UNICEF Sachin Tendulkar

UNICEF Sachin Tendulkar - © UNICEF India/2008/Bitta

“Sachin, you and your teammates are an inspiration to young Indians  and cricket fans around the world,” said UNICEF Representative in India Karin Hulshof, who travelled to Mohali Cricket grounds in Chandigarh for the event.

“And even more important is your commitment to giving your time and energy to keep India’s children safe and healthy,” she added. “You and the team are great examples of what we – the Government of India, UNICEF, Indian cricket and the young people throughout this great nation – can achieve together when we wash our hands with soap to stay healthy.”

Mr. Tendulkar, who is widely acknowledged as one of cricket’s greatest batsmen in the history of the sport, is well on his way to breaking the world record for runs scored in test cricket. He has appeared in a public service announcement developed by UNICEF and the Government of India being broadcast in 14 languages across the country.

Simple, cost-effective solution

UNICEF - Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar

UNICEF - Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar - © UNICEF India/2008/Bitta

“I wanted to be a part of this campaign, because washing hands with soap can keep children safe and healthy and protect them against deadly disease,” the cricket star said. “Having two young children, I constantly have to remind them to wash their hands before and after meals.”

UNICEF Representative Karin Hulshof presents mementos of thanks to cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble, captain of the India cricket team, for their support in making Global Handwashing Day a success.

The campaign is led by the Department of Drinking Water Supply (DDWS) of the Ministry of Rural Development, and the Department of School Education and Literacy of the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

More than 1,600 children die every day in India from diarrhoea. But the simple, cost-effective solution of washing hands with soap after defecation and before meals could greatly reduce that number. Proper handwashing with soap can reduce diarrhoeal cases by almost half and acute respiratory illnesses by 30 per cent.

Countering myths about handwashing

UNICEF - INDIAN CRICKET TEAM - © UNICEF India/2008/Bitta

UNICEF - INDIAN CRICKET TEAM - © UNICEF India/2008/Bitta

According to the country’s Public Health Association, only 53 per cent of people in India wash hands after defecation, 38 per cent wash hands before eating and only 30 per cent wash hands before preparing food. Many people don’t wash their hands, because they believe that hands that look clean cannot make them sick.

Members of the India cricket team and young fans come together on Global Handwashing Day to wash their hands with soap in Chandigarh.

Many people also believe that water alone is sufficient to remove visible dirt from hands. As part of Global Handwashing Day, a five-step handwashing technique, developed in Tamil Nadu state, is being taught to school children around the country.

“The crux of this campaign is that we are reaching out to students in hundreds of thousands of schools in rural India, from children in the flood-affected areas of Bihar to schools in far removed tribal regions of Jharkhand to satellite schools in Rajasthan,” said UNICEF India Chief of Water and Sanitation Lizette Burgers.

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