In the wilderness of the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, a group of girls hold hands as they take a walk into the forest, a little away from the government residential school they study at. Be it in the dead of the night or at daybreak, these students take the path, while risking their lives as open defecation is the only option they have.
For 32 girls at the Girijana Ashrama Shale (estb: 1947) located at Ponnampete of the Virajpet Taluk in Kodagu district, a shrubbery at a distance from their school is a place they call “toilet”. Health issues emerging out of open defecation is the least of their concerns because encounters with snakes and other wildlife is a more fearsome factor to deal with. Such is the situation for 23 boys as well.
As the concrete structure attached to the school has been clogged for several months now rendering it inaccessible, students at the school have no choice but to go out in the open.
“We had a hostel facility which was demolished several years ago. Now, we reside in the school premises itself. Me and some of my friends go to the patch on the other side of the road where no others can see for our morning chores. Initially, I was worried. Now a lot of us feel used to it,” said Ranjini (name changed), one of the students. For some seniors, challenges are aplenty during the menstrual cycles.
Such is the struggle even for the four female teachers at residential school of classes 1-7. “Even we go out in the open. There is no exception. We raised the issue with our principal who has brought it to the notice of authorities concerned. We are only hopeful that this is addressed at the earliest. It is embarrassing. The risk of being attacked by wildlife is high. Many students fear for their lives,” said a teacher on condition of anonymity.
For anyone visiting the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve for a Safari, male children bathing in the open behind this school is common sight. Teachers, however, argued that while toilets were clogged, bathrooms inside the school were not defunct and that the students did so as they were thrilled to bathe in the open.
At this school managed by the social welfare department, for 55 students, just three toilets have been built, all of which have remained defunct. “There is a proposal for a new pit. We are hoping the work will be completed soon. Additional toilets are needed for students as well,” said Basavaraju NS, headmaster of the school.News, States