February 2018

Driving community ownership for school sanitation infrastructure

To ensure success of a community initiative, make the community accountable. Following this approach, the Trusts has successfully improved sanitation facilities in many schools of Karnataka

The sanitation infrastructure in schools is promoting good hygiene and healthy habits among students

In 2007, when Tata Trusts, along with an associate organisation, Kalike, launched Kalike Samruddhi Upakram in Yadgir district of Karnataka, a mere 46 percent of the primary schools in the district had toilets and only 63 percent had drinking water facilities. Knowledge about health and hygiene was inadequate and was largely influenced by social beliefs and traditions.

Availability of safe drinking water and sanitation in schools facilitates a child’s learning process. Therefore, with a focus on improving the quality of elementary education in government schools of Yadgir, interventions were planned to educate people about health and hygiene. The message had the potential to be effectively passed through the children to their family members. Hence, a school sanitation programme was devised, focusing on:

  • Linking the schools to village water distribution networks.
  • Provision of safe drinking water and functional toilets in schools.
  • Provision of an adequate number of toilets and urinals.
  • Repairing existing drinking water and sanitation structures.
  • Spreading awareness on basic health and hygiene issues among teachers, students and School Development and Management Committee (SDMC) members.

The Kalike team began the intervention by selecting 18 schools and meeting their heads to explain the plan of action. After discussing the issues and requirements in each school with the SDMC members, the team prepared a detailed plan for hardware. About 80 percent of the funds were given by Kalike and the remaining amount was contributed by SDMC and the community. The completed hardware units were handed over to the schools. But, unfortunately, in most schools, the infrastructure was not maintained properly — many hand-washing units were damaged within a few days of installation. Shrugging off the responsibility, the SDMC and community elders refused to deal with the issue.

On the basis of these experiences in the first phase, a revised strategy was implemented in seven schools for the second phase, which involved the community in each decision-making process. The idea was to introduce a significant amount of ownership in the process and push through the goal of securing community funds. According to Dhanraj Chittapur, Programme Manager (WASH), Yadgir, “We realised from our experience that the success of any community initiative requires the active involvement of the community, as the programme needs to be sustained by the community itself.”

During fund-raising meetings, Kalike assured the villagers that it would provide 50 percent of the amount, while the remaining 50 percent was to be contributed by the community. After initial hesitation, the community members volunteered to contribute in the form of materials required for construction. In some cases, one-on-one meetings were held with the community, which resulted in contributions of up to 70 percent. The stakeholders also assured contributions for the maintenance and repair costs of the structures. The community now began showing interest in the progress of the programme and some villagers even helped in the labour work. The units are now in good condition and are being taken care of by everyone. 

This story has been taken from the SRTT annual report 2016-17.