Toilets play a key role in the overall functioning of a school. It is hard to imagine a school functioning efficiently without a set of toilets. According to UNICEF, “education for girls can be fostered by something as basic as a girls-only toilet”. Even in cases where schools have toilets, they will be unusable unless they are clean, private and functional. Currently, there is an extensive database on elementary education in India called District Information System for Education (DISE). It has school ‘report cards’ of more than 1.3 million schools providing qualitative and quantitative information about them. However, these only mention whether the school has toilets for boys and for girls. This can be misleading because even if a school has separate toilets for boys and girls, they could be unusable due to various reasons.

In an initial set of informal visits to 8 schools in the Shivajinagar, Frazer Town and KG Halli areas of Bangalore, we got the impression that toilets were an integral part of the school’s infrastructure. In some cases, the poor condition of toilets affected attendance and enrollment at the school, especially for girls. One of the school headmasters (HM) complained that parents are reluctant in sending their daughters to school if there are no separate toilet facilities for them. The boys at the school would urinate in open-air at a corner of the school ground.

In order to get a deeper understanding of the toilet infrastructure in government schools, we worked with the Akshara Foundation to carry out a survey of 36 schools in Bangalore. 16 of these schools were located in the urban Kaval Byrasandra cluster and 20 in the rural Sarjapura one. The goal of this investigation is to document the challenges and opportunities in providing usable toilet infrastructure in government schools in Bangalore. We found that:

  • It is hard to get accurate state of school toilets due to inconsistencies and lack of toilet usability data in the DISE database
  • There are significant differences in key attributes of urban and rural schools
  • Poor toilets pose major problems and concerns for students, teachers and parents
  • Many schools face water supply problems especially in urban areas
  • Vandalism is a non-trivial problem that can have serious consequences for schools
  • Schools with indifferent SDMCs do not get proactively improved
  • Schools with buildings not owned by the government get limited support from it
  • Urban parents in our sample were indifferent to their children’s studies
  • Enrollment in schools is affected by social, material and financial factors
  • Community ownership is essential for schools to sustain their toilet infrastructure
  • School toilet report cards have potential to incite stakeholders

These findings have been described in detail in this document, along with pictures when applicable. Due to the diverse context of each school, there are exceptions in our generalizations. We hope that this document will be useful to those working in the government school space in Bangalore, specifically in the area of infrastructure and sanitation.