By Shishir Kumar
JHARKHAND, India, 26 October 2009 - At 1.30 pm, the bell goes and with it 12 year old Kamlesh Mahato rushes to the school hand pump. It is time for the mid-day meal, but not before he has washed his hand with soap.
Every day, Kamlesh, along with his batch mates, queues to wash his hands before heading to the school kitchen. Kamlesh, like 550 other students of his school, strictly follows this routine not only at the school but also at home.
The upgraded middle school located at Resham in Angara block, 60 kilometers from Ranchi, has appointed members of the ‘Bal Sansad’or Child Cabinet who, along with their teachers, keep a tab on the hygiene behaviour of the students.
“We must wash our hands with soap after defecation and before eating. It does not take more than a minute and is the best preventive measure to avoid deadly diseases,” shares Kamlesh.
“Earlier I used to be absent from school often as I suffered from diarrhoea. But since I started washing hands regularly, I have never fallen ill,” he adds.
“Our school follows the hygiene practices including hand-washing before the children eat,” says Prem Chandra Bedia, Assistant Teacher.
The students, says Bedla, are first asked to queue according to their sections and then wash hands their before they eat their mid-day meal.
“I have been working in this school since 2002. A large number of students could not attend classes due to diarrhoea and other infections. But now, campaigns like the hand-washing campaign initiated by UNICEF has helped prevent children falling prey to such diseases,” Bedia added.
Louis Kacchap, the Health Minister in the Bal Sansad, heads the hand-washing movement in the school. The Deputy Health Minister of the Bal Sansad, Yasoda, assists him in this job.
Bal Sansad has mobilised hundreds of students by discussing the benefits and need of handwashing.
“In the last one year we have convinced most of our school mates the benefits of handwashing. We have been explaining to them that hand washing with water only is not enough,” says Yasoda.
“Only washing hand with soap can cleanse hands from the grease and dirt that carry most of the germs,” he adds.
“The practice which started last year has now developed into a habit. Now we do not eat food without washing our hands even at home,” informs Dutila Bedia, one of the students of the upgraded middle school in Resham.
Shukhdeo Bariak, a parent, shares his views on the positive changes that he has been observed after the hand-washing programme started in the school. “My son Pawan is a student of class VI. First he used to have stomach infections regularly. But, in the past one year, he has not had any diarrhoea.” “We have now adopted Pawan’s habit at home.”