In our country, the education sector plays a crucial role in promoting Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). Every student has a right to study in a safe environment where basic sanitation needs are met. Many pupils are impacted by sanitary provisions and can spread the importance of hygiene in their homes and communities.
The government has various policies under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to ensure proper hygiene and sanitation. Unfortunately, imminent government colleges under the Delhi University are failing when it comes to the execution of those schemes.
In a brief survey conducted, over 50 students reported the condition of washroom facilities in various colleges of Delhi University. The respondents hailed from Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, Dyal Singh College, Gargi College, Hindu College, Jesus and Mary College, Kamla Nehru College, Lady Shri Ram College, Ramjas and Sri Venkateswara College.
More than 56% of students who took part in the survey reported that they are frequently reluctant to use washrooms on campus. A student of Gargi college responded by saying, “I usually refrain from using the college washrooms. They are quite stinky, unhygienic and do not even have a proper water supply.”
Gargi College held a grand inaugural ceremony for new on-campus washrooms in 2017. The two units of washroom complexes were installed by an NGO, Sulabh International, and handed over to the college authorities. Today, students express distress at the poor infrastructural arrangement in the washrooms. A student of Gargi College anonymously opined, “Gargi College’s washrooms are the worst, I can say. Even the doors don’t close. Lights are not working.”
The survey also asked the students how they would rate the hygiene and cleanliness of washrooms in their college on a scale of 0 to 5. Majority of the respondents (60%) provided ratings of either 0 or 1. Several remarks by students insinuated that conditions of hygiene and sanitation in their college were abysmal.
A student of Jesus and Mary college said, “One would expect something as basic as running water to be available at all times; however, that has not been the case. Furthermore, in a few select washrooms, one would find a single bottle of soap. Other things are lacking, but the absence of these two needs goes to show the sad state of our washroom facilities.”
When college authorities fail to provide amenities in washrooms like running water and soap, they are putting thousands of students at health risks. The poor infrastructure of college washrooms has had severe impacts on the student experience.
Another student, Vridhi, stated that when their campus washrooms are not clean, they have to rush to the nearby restaurant or control natural calls for the entire day. She also expressed safety concerns when she revealed that the washroom locks are damaged and do not work. “Once I got locked inside and I can’t express in words how bad it was, even my friend was once locked inside and she almost threw up. It’s that bad,” she said.
Female students have reported difficulties in managing their period when exposed to such unhygienic washrooms. There is an absence of sanitary napkins in vending machines, and elsewhere, no such provisions of sanitary napkins at all in these washrooms. A student quoted that using the washroom is a task, especially when you’re chumming and it is a necessity to use them.
An alumnus of Kamla Nehru College described improper plumbings and continuously clogged washrooms on campus. She further added that when compared to student washrooms, the staff washrooms were more clean and hygienic. Many students from Sri Venkateswara College described their washrooms as unsuitable to use because of leaks and wet floors.
Prestigious colleges are failing to provide basic infrastructure and sanitation. Students are on campus premises for major parts of the day and are inevitably exposed to various safety and health concerns. The question is, why are college authorities not sensitised and proactive to make basic amenities available on campuses?
Access to proper toilets is a basic human right. If prestigious colleges governed by the centre in the National Capital are failing their students, what can be expected of various other educational institutions?