It was not my first trip to Ajmer but a very special one. We were in Ajmer to co-facilitate sessions on sanitation and personal hygiene with our NGO representative in government schools in Ajmer. There was apprehension on what was to come and elitist attitude on what all we could teach the kids. The day began with 1 Govt. Girls Sr. Secondary School in Beawar, which is about 60 km from Ajmer city. ‘What can one expect of a government school in a small town near a small city?’ I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Not only was the school neat and clean, but its students were also neatly dressed and very well informed.
Our visit started with Yogeshji (our NGO representative) taking Aakritee (PwC CR coordinator) and me around the school to see various classrooms and other facilities. Despite the teacher to student ratio being high (1:60), the students weren’t noisy nor were classes out of control. In fact, the students were well behaved and classes were well managed. Our school round was followed by a meeting with the headmistress, who gave us insights about the school, its key achievements and challenges. The discussion also gave us a perspective on how well the school was run. She also requested for PwC's help in installing solar lights and more computers in the computer lab. Having seen and heard about the school it was now the time to experience it, i.e. to meet the students.
We were given the opportunity to meet the school cabinet and to interact with them. The school cabinet consisted of students from classes 11 and 12 from across streams. The interaction was quite interesting as the young ladies were well informed on current affairs, and the need and advantages of sanitation. They told us stories and shared experiences of implementation of cleanliness at their homes. The group also did a role play exercise to describe real life situations encountered at home and other places while practicing Swachh Bharat. The young students were aware that they could influence their parents and neighbourhoods to practice cleanliness. We also discussed the importance of personal hygiene and steps for maintaining it. We then visited the new toilet facilities built by PwC in the school premises. The students were appreciative of PwC’s effort and told us that the new toilets had reduced the walking time to the toilet and avoid long lines. They also told us that they ensured that the toilets were clean and concerns were raised through proper channel if they were not. They also told us the initiative they were running to save electricity.
After an interactive and an informative interaction with the student cabinet, we visited class 8 students who also told us about need for cleanliness and sanitation. In fact, one young girl also gave us a demo on how to wash hands… To my amazement, I realised that I didn’t even know how to wash my hands properly! We wrapped up our sessions just before the first school shift was to end and the second shift moved in… but our day was far from over.
Our next stop was Govt. School Sardhana, on the way from Beawar to Ajmer. This school was much smaller than the first one and worked in a single shift. Here, we met students of class 6 to talk to them about sanitation and importance of cleanliness. The younger students were shy at first and the ice was only broken when one of the students agreed to sing for us. As some of the outgoing ones volunteered to answer some of our queries, the session became more interactive. This group had not been exposed to personal hygiene sessions though they were aware of the sanitation and cleanliness. We spoke to them about the need for personal hygiene and the steps they must follow to be clean and healthy. Though we could see they were shy, they understood what we were talking about. The students did point out the need to repair their current toilets and also the need for more toilets. We also felt that the younger students needed to be exposed to sessions on personal hygiene. Even though the interaction was interesting, it had to be ended or else we would have missed our train.
I came back to Delhi a changed person. A person with new found respect for my new young friends with personal goals on cleanliness. I recognise more than before that cleanliness is a responsibility that all of us share inside and outside our homes… and am committed to shoulder it.
PwC India Foundation
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