Over the past six months, more than 700 girls studying at a government school in Jharkhand’s Chatra district have been limiting their food and water intake to avoid the discomfort of having to ask people for access to a restroom. The Swami Vivekanand Higher Secondary School, which is situated about a kilometre away from the Mayurhund block headquarters and covers five acres of land, does have a stadium but currently lacks even a single functioning toilet.
The contractor responsible for renovating the school tore down the existing toilets without providing any temporary alternatives. This dire situation affects nearly 1,100 students, including male teachers and male students who have resorted to finding places in nature or fields to answer nature’s call.
In contrast, the female teachers have devised their own solution by renting rooms with restroom facilities during the day. Unfortunately, this workaround involves additional expenses. Out of the 20 teachers at the school, three are women, along with two female non-teaching staff members.
Despite reporting the issue to district authorities and the state education department, the students and staff have received only assurances without immediate relief. The state’s education secretary, K Ravi Kumar, mentioned that the education department has identified schools in need of restroom facilities and is working on a proposal to address this issue in around 113 schools.
However, for the students facing daily hardships, long-term plans offer little consolation. A 10th-grade student shared her embarrassment at having to visit nearby houses to use their restrooms but felt they had no other option. District education officer Dinesh Kumar Mishra stated that new toilets would be constructed soon but couldn’t guarantee temporary arrangements.
Letters seeking a solution were sent to elected representatives, including Chatra MP Sunil Singh, but with no tangible results. The school’s campus includes an unused stadium and a building where a residential girls’ school used to operate. Both buildings have sufficient restrooms that could resolve the problem, but no action has been taken to utilize them.
The school’s principal, Rajendra Das, suggested that the best option would be for the contractor to complete the restroom construction as soon as possible. The contractor, Bhuneshwar Mahto, claimed that the restroom construction was delayed due to a lack of funds, as the allocated amount of approximately 2 crore rupees was used for renovating classrooms and building a boundary wall.
Mayurhund block development officer Saket Kumar Sinha promised to visit the school to ensure that restroom construction resumed with funding from the District Mineral Foundation Trust. However, he also remained silent about providing temporary facilities until the work was completed.