High school students in India become entrepreneurs for safe WASH at schools

When high school students promote safe sanitation, they can become an inspiration to the rest of society. The Government-aided NJA High School, located in the Bose Nagar village of Chirala Mandal (Andhra Pradesh, India), is a great example of this.

Partnership with ITC for safe sanitation

Before the project started, this school had a very poor WASH infrastructure. ITC’s Social Investments Program, Mission Sunehra Kal, aims to address vulnerabilities of communities, particularly with respect to water resources. They decided to support this school under its community development programme, to tackle this sanitation challenge amongst others by providing the school with separate toilet and urinal blocks for boys and girls. However, due to a lack of sufficient funds, maintenance became a big challenge.

Setting up a Child Cabinet at NJA Highschool 

FINISH Society took up the Sustainable School WASH project in October 2018, and started working on the improvement of the WASH infrastructure of the schools. The society formed a child cabinet to teach, encourage and monitor fellow students to promote and implement the WASH programme at schools.

The Child Cabinet of the NJA School consists of 12 members between the age of 13 and 15 years. The cabinet has a Prime Minister, 3 Sports and Cultural Ministers, 3 Health Ministers, 3 Education & Environment Ministers and 3 Food Ministers. The Health Ministry is responsible for WASH activities of the school. Their roles and responsibilities include monitoring personal hygiene, handwashing using soap at critical times and creating awareness in the school and community on communicable diseases, including mode of transmission, prevention and treatment. The Health Ministry is also responsible for monitoring proper storage and safe handling of water.

Awareness & Training

After the formation of a Child Cabinet, FINISH Society conducted several meetings with child cabinet members along with a headmaster to make them understand the WASH programme and its importance. FINISH Society trained child cabinet members so they are able to make fellow students understand the concepts of personal hygiene, handwashing, toilet usage and cleanliness. In the meantime, they were given awareness sessions on the importance of Operations & Maintenance of the WASH infrastructure.

Increased Funds for Operations & Maintenance

Following the continuous training and awareness campaigns conducted by the FINISH Society Team, the child cabinet understood the importance of having Operations & Maintenance funds for the school. They decided to mobilize regular Operations & Maintenance funds for the school, without depending on anyone else.

To raise even more funds for O&M of the toilets and urinals, the Child Cabinet requested the headmaster, Mr. Raman, to allow them to run a canteen/snack shop. The headmaster happily accepted their offer and even helped them with a loan as initial investment to start the shop at the school premises. From that moment on, child cabinet members would sell candy, chips, biscuits, and stationery to fellow students. This not only generated profits for operations & maintenance, the child cabinet members also developed leadership and entrepreneurship qualities.

Meeting monthly expenses

The child cabinet canteen became a big success. With their profits, they were able to return the initial investments within 3 months. Despite the success, it’s profits alone were not sufficient to meet the monthly O&M expenses of the entire school. However they didn’t give up on the initiative, and continued their contributions to the O&M needs of the school. Teachers got inspired and also started contributing to the expenses. With the help of teachers and child cabinet members, NJA High School is now able to meet its monthly O&M expenses for the WASH infrastructure.