Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, April 15, 2008: For ten year old Suleman, hailing from a poor weaver’s family and the other scholars of Jamia Arabia Faizul Ullum madarsa in Kotwa, in Varanasi district it was indeed a proud moment.
The ramshackle, tin shed traditional toilet in their madarsa was finally being replaced by a row of modern, innovative gadgets albeit flush toilets. The formal inauguration on 8th April was hailed with cheers of joy and enthusiasm.
The year 2008 has been declared as International Year of Sanitation by the United Nations. This madarsa is one of the 30 rural centers of Islamic religious learning which has been chosen for a pilot project by a local NGO, Human Welfare Association (HWA).
HWA with the support of UNICEF and Department of Panchayati Raj and Government of Uttar Pradesh is promoting sanitation, cleanliness and providing safe drinking water facilities in the madarsas in rural areas of the state.
Statistics reveal that more than 65 per cent Muslim children up to the 8th standard are getting education in madarsas.
But it is also true that there is no proper provision of sanitation for these madarsas in the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (SSA). As a result even after 60 odd years of the country’s independence the sanitation at theses centers leaves much to be desired.
By focusing on sanitation in these madarsas the project has addressed the much needed and vital need of the community. It is all the more laudable that the work has been initiated from Varanasi, which is the oldest living city in the world.
If this innovative sanitation model at these rural madarsas proves to be a success the state government will replicate the model at the other relevant districts.
Dr. Rajnikant of the HWA said, “We have been working on this issue for the last 14 years. We aim at the development of poorest of the poor community and downtrodden toiling masses through education, child labor, child rights, and income generation activities with self help groups, women empowerment, health and hygiene. Now our work is bearing fruit.”
Terming a clean environment, as part of Child Rights, Mr. Amit Mehrotra, State UNICEF sanitation officer said, “Our goal is to create proper learning environment in the madarsas. This is fully possible with the support of proper sanitation and safe drinking water facilities.”
He stressed that the madarsa project aims at not only making cosmetic changes but also trying to instill awareness about sanitation among both the children and parents.
A community dialogue has been initiated on total sanitation. While demonstration will be made by the construction of proper flush toilets, usage of hand pump, teachers will also be imparted training on sanitation so that they can guide the children on issues of hygiene.
The madarsa walls will carry messages of sanitation painted in bold letters. Slogans related to sanitation, drinking water, basic education and child rights will be written in public places on the walls of houses, other public places (panchayat bhavans, schools, and madarsas) in the villages and road side.
“This will ensure that we achieve one of the Millennium Development Goals of United Nations — that of providing proper sanitation and pure drinking water to all by 2015,” said the divisional commissioner of Varanasi, Mr. Nitin Ramesh Gokaran.