Bhubaneswar: A webinar was held on 22nd Sept by SC&ST Development, Minorities & Backward Classes Welfare Dept. on Water Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools and preparedness in Tribal Schools and Hostels. It was organized with support from UNICEF and Hindustan Unilever Limited. Speakers who joined the webinar unanimously proposed that WASH (Water, Sanitation & Hygiene) in schools is one of the core areas that need urgent attention and improvement in this sector can trigger improvement in all other sectors like Health, Nutrition and Education etc. Over 900 participants from districts including DWOs, PA ITDAs, Headmaster of SSD schools, NGO Partners, SC & ST Development Department & UNICEF participated in it.
At the outset Ms Shipra Saxena, WASH Specialist, UNICEF shared the objective of the webinar and highlighted the context of the pandemic and need of improved WASH for infection prevention and control in current scenario.
In her keynote address Ms. Guha Poonam Tapas Kumar, IAS, Director ST said that improvement of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) is necessary in schools because it has a larger societal linkage due to its inter-connectedness with other issues like health and nutrition. In the context of tribal Schools and hostels in Odisha She expressed that WASH scenario in schools have changed in term of infrastructure but in term of practices still there are long way to go. She mentioned on need of improved WASH and keeping SSD school on higher level on WASH indicators.
Ms. Monika Neilson, Chief Field Office, UNICEF Odisha, mentioned that every child has the right to a quality education, which includes access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services while at school. Children spend a significant portion of their life at school where WASH services can impact student learning, health, and dignity, particularly for girls. WASH in schools is an important component to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals related to Education and WASH. Tribal Residential Schools cater for children who, for various reasons, are unable to return home each day. All meals, sleeping accommodation and washing facilities are provided within the institution, it is therefore of critical importance that water, sanitation and hygiene enabling facilities are adequate.
In keynote address by Ms Ranjana Chopra, IAS, Principal Secretary, ST & SC Development Minorities& Backward Classes Welfare Department
Ms Ranjana Chopra in her address expressed that if WASH in schools are not taken care of then the students in the school assumed to be not taken care of. She said that now it is time to think beyond infrastructure. Mobilising the Primary stakeholders i,e students is not enough to address the issue. The secondary stakeholder like teacher, staffs. Parents and above all community and civil society actors need to come forward else the good WASH practices learnt by students in schools will just be confined there and no scope for application of those learning outside the schools will be available for them. So, it is all to work towards the same. Further She added that WASH is directly linked to quality education as he/she cannot learn if not physically and mentally fit or in poor health condition. She highlighted that we are efforts for ISO certification is also being taken to ensure all the quality parameters in Schools/hostels and focus is on sustained WASH to achieve Swachh Vidyalaya standards.
Dr. Pratibha Singh WASH Specialist UNICEF India Country Office, shared key barriers for infection Prevention and control in schools and presented best practices from various states on safe school protocols and ensuring WASH measures.
Dr. Malini Reddy, Administrative Staff College of India, shared global examples on schools reopening measures taken in various country before June. She enforced various preventive measure like temperature gun, mask and soap and other safe school protocols etc. She also shares some challenges like confidence and comfort to get back to school and access to sanitation facility and physical distancing norms. She also shared various best practices of the other states.
Mr. Narendra Singh Chouhan, WASH Officer UNICEF presented the Odisha situation and essential WASH package required for residential schools and Swachh Vidyalaya Puraskar. He also focused on Menstrual Hygiene Management component including behaviour change and emphasized on capacity building of various stakeholders.
Mr. M. S Khan, Consultant UNICEF briefed the participants about school preparedness action plan. Plan must show SMART objectives and must have scope for mobilising funds. He explained about gap analysis that are seen in the current project and mentioned about the various mechanisms to arrest those gaps.