Children and civil society urge Parliamentary Caucus on Child rights to increase budget for WASH in secondary schools
“We spend 7-8 hours in school every day and face a plethora of problems surrounding water and sanitation” said Arifa, children’s representative of Dosaid School, Savar, while speaking on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in an open dialogue with the Parliamentary Caucus on Child Rights. Addressing the problematic WASH situation, the children pointed out the lack of toilets, drinking water and hygiene facilities in their schools.
Save the Children, alongside the National Children’s Task Force (NCTF) and the partner organizations VERC, CSID organized the open discussion on 5th June 2016 at the Minister’s Conference hall, Dhaka. Deputy speaker of the National Parliament, Advocate Fazle Rabbi Miah attended as chief guest and the Chairman of Parliamentary Caucus and Member of Parliament, Mir Shawkat Ali Badshah presided over the open discussion with child representatives of 30 secondary schools, representatives of School Management Committees (SMCs), and civil society.
It was acknowledged that WASH facilities are not up to the mark in almost all the schools in Bangladesh and this often affects children’s education and well-being. According to the Bangladesh National Hygiene Baseline survey (2014), limited toilet access for students is a critical issue in schools, with only 45% of all school toilets being usable. In addition, lack of menstrual hygiene facilities came up as a major challenge faced by female students.
Children and civil society argued that WASH issues in schools remain under-prioritized so long as the budget for WASH continues to be included in the broad “development” category. Currently no school has a separate budget allocation for the installation, management and maintenance of WASH facilities. Despite unhygienic facilities having negative impacts on children’s health and education, SMCs tend to ignore the issue and side-step the need for a separate budget for the improvement of WASH facilities. Participants called for the education board to approve specific budget provisions for WASH in school budgets.
A scenario of the budget and management system in government and non-government schools was presented by Mamunur Rashid, Manager at Save the Children. He also made recommendations on budget allocation and regular monitoring of WASH facilities to ensure proper hygiene conditions in schools. Another recommendation was to have a cleaning officer in every school for the upkeep of toilets and water dispensers.
“We will recommend a specific budget for WASH since it is an urgent need for children’s health and development” said Rosy Siddique, Member of Parliament. She also emphasized earmarking a certain amount of the total annual budget for WASH for compulsory spending.
The caucus members unanimously agreed to raise WASH matters in schools as a priority in the national budget discussion. “All caucus members will send letters to the Ministries of Finance, Education, Local Government and Engineering Department, and the Planning Commission to make the separate budget allocation for WASH a reality” assured Mr. Fazle Rabbi.