Australian university students help build toilet block for rural Indian schools
The dropout rate among Indian school girls are worryingly high. Source: Shutterstock

A group of students from the University of New South Wales’ medical school in Australia has helped fund a toilet block at a rural Indian girls’ school in a bid to improve hygiene and encourage more girls to attend complete their education.

Costing AUD18,000, the block comprising of 12 toilets will aid 250 girls from the nearby rural and tribal areas who attend the Kanya Vidya Mandir school, according to UNSW Newsroom.

“Around 25 percent of girls drop out of school because there are no appropriate toilet facilities for them,” UNSW third-year student Lokesh Sharma said.

“Toilets are a big issue for girls because it is much harder for them to go to the toilet out in the open compared to boys, and it becomes an even bigger issue when they hit puberty.”

How the new toilet with proper facilities look like. Source: UNSW Newsroom.

Lokesh is treasurer for Medical Students’ Aid Project (MSAP), a team of UNSW Medicine students who funded the construction of the toilet block. The MSAP aims to improve global healthcare at the grassroots level and among others, supplies medical equipment to the developing world, as stated on its website.

More than 40 percent of Indian women are illiterate, a figure much higher in rural areas, according to the country’s 2011 census.

The lack of proper toilet facilities has been reported as a reason why many girls choose not to attend school.

Sanitation is a big problem in India to the extent that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it a point to eliminate open defecation, a practice where people go out in fields, bushes, forests, open bodies of water, or other open spaces rather than using the toilet to defecate, by 2019. Flushing is a luxury available to only 42.5 percent of households in rural India.

When Lokesh first visited the school, only three of the 12 toilets in the 50-year-old building were functioning. There were neither proper doors nor a basin to wash hands in the toilet that is located relatively far from the school girls’ boarding quarters.

Now, the new block with two water tanks to allow flushing is located in between the school’s two living quarters so the students can access them more easily and safely.

“If the girls have a proper place to stay with proper facilities, they are incentivised to go to school,” Lokesh said.

“Hopefully when they are older they will take this experience with them and share it with other communities.”

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