In Indian schools without proper toilets, attendance suffers. Corporations like TCS have stepped up.
In the town of Atmakur in Nellore district in coastal Andhra Pradesh, headmaster D.P. Narasimhulu had quietly been fighting for good sanitation facilities in his school for years. And he was hardly alone: His school was one of more than 250,000 government schools across India that lacked adequate toilet facilities, an issue that has a direct impact on attendance. In fact, as many as 23 percent of girls in government schools drop out when they hit puberty.
Then, in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) campaign. Swachh Bharat is the largest cleanliness drive in the history of India, and one of its key initiatives is Swachh Bharat: Swachh Vidyalaya (Clean India: Clean Schools). Prime Minister Modi urged the corporate sector to get involved in the construction of toilets in schools across the country. Many Indian companies, including TCS, got involved almost immediately.
Schools allocated to TCS were spread across four states—Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Tamil Nadu—and happily included Narasimhulu’s school. Finally, his students would have the facilities they needed.
TCS builds 1,475 toilets for Indian schools—but the effort went far beyond construction.
TCS formed a taskforce to work with central and state governments and planned an end-to-end implementation that went well beyond building toilets. The program addressed several related issues, including:
Water supply. Lack of water, and fears of diminishing the existing village supply, had to be addressed. In many cases TCS arranged for bore-wells to be dug, sometimes to depths of 600-800 feet.
Waste disposal. It was critical to avoid groundwater contamination, so leach and soak pits had to be designed for local soil types and water tables.
Washbasin installation. Hand washbasins with running water had to be provided for each toilet.
Maintenance plan. TCS engaged two maintenance partners across the selected states to ensure the toilets are cleaned daily and equipped with consumables like soap.
TCS leveraged technology to ensure successful and timely implementation. A pilot study shortlisted suitable construction models, then small-scale preliminary modeling was done to define the design, timing, and cost of implementation.
To prepare the schools for ongoing management of the new facilities, TCS has been conducting training programs for students, teaching staff, and the local community. Cleanliness posters now dot the walls of common areas and classrooms. Students are encouraged to participate in the effort with “I am the Change” badges.
To date, TCS has constructed 1,475 toilets in four states, and playing an important role in a very large-scale effort to promote healthy living and school attendance throughout India.
“The challenge in India is not just building toilets. It’s about the behavioral change needed to make people accustomed to using and maintaining toilets.”