news Monday, July 20, 2015 - 05:30
A Karnataka government committee’s idea of getting school children to develop a sense of responsibility towards the cleanliness of their surroundings is to make them clean toilets – both in their school and public toilets in the vicinity of their school. The recommendation has already been staunchly challenged by parents associations in the state. The Karnataka Legislature Petitions Committee headed by Deputy Speaker H N Shivshankar Reddy had recommended that school children studying in classes between 8- 12 compulsorily clean school campus and also set aside two hours a month to clean public roads and toilets in the vicinity of their school. The committee had made the recommendations in response to a petition to the committee made by former mayor of Hubballi-Dharwad Panduranga Patil, urging the committee to look into the possible strengthening of urban local bodies, Bangalore Mirror reported. Speaking to The News Minute, Reddy said that the recommendations of the committee spanned a wide range of subjects, including education, and activities that urban local bodies could take up. He said that the recommendations, if all accepted by the government, would only be applicable to government schools. Asked if it was not unfair to make students of government schools, who often came from unprivileged backgrounds and tended to live in slums or in localities which lacked civic amenities, he said that it was “just to develop an attitude towards cleanliness, that’s all”. “This is to inculcate an attitude of cleanliness, not just at a personal level, but also at a community level. It is not compulsory or even mandatory. These are just recommendations right now,” he said. Asked if the committee had also factored in the casteist notions of purity and impurity associated with toilet-cleaning, Reddy refused to give a clear answer, and added that he did not know where that idea had come from. Bangalore Mirror quoted the report as saying that the cleanliness drive would help eradicate caste system from society. However, government data is illuminating. Sarva Shikshana Abhiyan data for the year 2012-13 shows that 82 percent of children from Scheduled Caste communities study in government schools, where this rule would be applicable if it is implemented. Read: Eggs in school meals are not just about food habits. Its about social justice too Akhila Seeetharaman, a resident of the Indiranagar area of Bengaluru said she while she agreed with the principle of getting children inclined towards public sanitation, making them clean public toilets was not the way. Akhila, who has a six-year-old child, said: “I would not like the idea of exposing my child to bacteria and viruses. “Public toilets are so filthy. It is not a question of maintaining them. They need to be cleaned from scratch. If adults are not able to keep them clean, how can children do it?” She also said that children in government schools had to go through a lot to make it to school. Making them do this would be unfair, she added. RTE Students and Parents ‘Association general secretary B N Yogananda was not willing to buy the logic of the recommendations that it would help children imbibe a culture of cleanliness. “People in rural areas still defecate in the open. First, let the government get them to use toilets. Then, let them build toilets in all the schools in the state. Thousands of schools in the state do not have toilets. And while they’re at it, it should be good quality toilets, not built out of the leftovers of their loot.” He also said that if an alternative arrangement had to be introduced to clean school toilets, it could not be arbitrarily imposed by the state government. He said that the School Development Monitoring Committee (SDMC), which are parents’ committees at the school level, would create such mechanisms. Pointing out another serious problem, Yoganand said that in government schools, upper caste children studied along with those from lower castes. “Upper caste children will not do this work, and Dalit children will end up doing forced labour,” he said.