About 85,000 school students from 827 schools in the district of Ahmedabad in Gujarat voted on sanitation levels in their school, village and in their own personal hygiene at an event titled Swachhta Matdaan (voting for sanitation) organized on 8th April, 2017.
Ahmedabad was declared open defecation free (ODF) on 7th March, 2017. Hence the voting exercise was a part of the verification exercise called ‘My village My rating.’
“The voting by students is expected to reveal not only the sanitation status of a school and village but also the changes in behaviour of people with regard to use of toilets, personal hygiene, etc.,” said Bhargavi Dave, District Development Officer, Ahmedabad.
It can be considered a verification of sorts as it would reveal the outcome of the efforts of various sanitation related activities carried out by the district over the past two years. Ahead of the voting day, the DDO had written to Sarpanchs of all villages, 827 head teachers, 1492 Anganwadi workers, 1100 ASHA workers and 157 Block Resource Coordinators and Cluster Resource coordinators about the exercise, seeking their support and cooperation.
The ballot paper that each student had to mark contained points on school cleanliness, individual cleanliness and village cleanliness which they had to rate as – poor, average, medium, good or excellent. For students, it was an engaging exercise where they opinion mattered, and was sought on cleanliness of the school – class room, toilet, drinking water facility, balcony, kitchen and school premises.
They also had to answer questions on their person hygiene – regular brushing of teeth, cleaning of tongue, combing of hair, cutting nails and washing hair on a weekly basis, washing hands after using a toilet and before meals. This reinforcing of the sanitation message had students reflecting on their personal habits, knowing that it would have a bearing on their health.
Students felt a sense of belonging as they rated the cleanliness of their village, the public roads, the water bodies (well, rivers, chlorination of drinking water), village shops, market, garbage disposal methods, water troughs, milk booths, religious places, behaviour with regard to open defecation, etc.
Over the last couple of years, among the activities initiated by the District Administration as a part of the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin were – Pad Yatra, Man Babavo Abhiyan (make up your mind and motivate society), providing access to toilets, 45 days hand washing Maha Abhiyan; Sakhi Mandal training for toilet construction, sanitary mart; inclusion of toilet construction and cleanliness in all mega social religious and national festivals; Nigrani and Gandhigiri, Natkhat Toli (students’ squad); launch of books on Swachh Bharat Mission such as; Sona nu Shochalaya (Book on hygiene with emphasis on toilet construction), village cleanliness and solid and liquid waste management) and Safai Katha (book on behaviour change and cleanliness).
“All these activities along with Swachhta Gita written by me and sung by my teachers, have contributed to a pro-cleanliness environment in all the 474 villages,” the DDO said.