India - Karnataka: SSHE in Mysore District (Waterlines)

Updated - Tuesday 11 April 2006

School sanitation and hygiene education in Mysore District (Karnataka, India)

Manoj Kumar and Mariëlle Snel, Waterlines, Volume 19, No. 2, October 2000.

Many past projects on school sanitation and hygiene education in India have focused on the construction of sanitation and water facilities without taking hygiene education as an essential component in this development. More recent projects, such as the project in Mysore however have focused on a more holistic integrated approach which involves both the ‘hard’ ware as well as ‘soft’ ware issues in school sanitation and hygiene education.

The experience of Mysore District

The district of Mysore is located in the southern part of Karnataka State and is situated in Deccan Peninula, spread over an area of 6268 sq kms. It has 7 taluks with 236 Grama Panchayats. Mysore district has been one of the districts in which UNICEF has under the WatSan sector has focused on in terms of school sanitation and hygiene education.

The novel idea of a Sanitation programme, under the support of UNICEF, began in Mysore district in 1992, which was followed by a comprehensive strategy on the Control of Diarrhoeal Diseases by Improving access to Water and Sanitation (also known as the CDD WatSan). This CDD WatSan programme focused on developing holistic project approaches towards child survival, protection and development as well as school sanitation. The school sanitation aspect of the programme provided an excellent opportunity to promote sanitation packages from teacher to child, child to child, child to parent and parent to community.

As a result of this earlier programme, a more comprehensive project developed. The school sanitation objective of this new project intervention included:

  • Changing the ingrained habits of people from the practice of open defection to the use of a latrine
  • Exposing children in the use of Water and Sanitation (WatSan) facilities for good health and hygiene
  • Building linkages between the school and community
  • Making schools a focal point for dissemination of information at the village level

To focus on these objectives a detailed survey was conducted by the health department who assessed the level of water and sanitation facilities at schools within Mysore and the knowledge students had on sanitation. The findings of the survey 1) revealed that:

  • 90% of schools lacked latrine and urinal facilities
  • 75% of schools lacked water supply
  • 21% of schools had kitchen garden
  • 87% of students were aware of the fact that tap and borewell water are safe sources of drinking water
  • 32% of students had the knowledge of water borne diseases
  • 63% of students had the knowledge of fly nuisance
  • 18% bath themselves daily.

Based on these survey finding, the following strategies were developed for school sanitation, namely:

  • Emphasizing sanitation and hygiene to school children through their school curriculum
  • Forming school cabinets which monitor sanitation activities
  • Motivating school headmasters and teachers in the process of maintaining the school campus
  • Providing basic facilities such as water supply and institutional toilets
  • Involving the health and construction department in school sanitation.

The Mysore School Project 1995–1998

In 1995, based on the survey findings, a total of twenty schools were identified for upgrading and hygiene promotion. Water supply was provided to all of these 20 schools. Further construction of toilets and urinals were provides in the school campus in all of these schools.

As a result of these developments, head masters and school teachers were more motivated to teach hygiene education. School teachers were given training by the health and public health engineering department in the form of discussions and videos. One of the suggestions made by the school teachers was to form school cabinets which consist of a number of school children who could be involved in various aspects of monitoring the facilities and advocating hygiene promotion among other students. As a result of this suggestion, school cabinets now exist in numerous schools. These school cabinet consists of the chief minister, deputy chief minister and other ministers in charge of health, sports, water supply, horticultural and cultural activities. The head master of the school guides the cabinet regularly by holding meetings and discussion related to all aspects of school. School cabinet members are also taken to other schools.

A number of other activities have also taken place based on teacher suggestions, such as pictorial wall painting which are made in all of the schools to emphasize the significance of various aspects of personal hygiene and community sanitation. Another important activity has been development of a weekly calendar on school sanitation and hygiene education activities. For example, on Monday the school children focus on the issue of the importance of toilets while on Tuesday this issue of the disposal of waste is discussed. In other words, for each day one health activity is undertaken by the students.

The roles of local NGOs also play a vital role in these schools. A number of activities like painting competition, enactment of street plays and health camps are organized with the active involvement of NGOs.


Based on the initial twenty schools which were identified for upgrading and hygiene promotion, the programme has now expanded to over 300 schools around Mysore which have access to sanitary latrines in the school premises as well as water facilities. An additional survey reflects some preliminary changes which have taken place among the school children. Although these results are somewhat premature, they nevertheless indicate some clear changes at the school level such as higher school attendance, low dropout rates 2) and a more positive attitude from school children and teachers towards being involved in school sanitation and hygiene education activities.


In the context of this specific case study, although much remains to be done, there are grounds for optimism as support among school, community, citizens and school children continues to grow. At this stage, this case study remains relatively new and will need a few more years to develop; in the meantime in order for other projects such as these to develop and survive, it will be essential that:

  • Political backing comes from local municipality;
  • There is social acceptance by communities with regards to school children assisting in maintaining and monitoring sanitation and water facilities
  • There is financial backing, both from local municipalities, citizens and outsides agenc(ies) in this case UNICEF

Inevitably many challenges remain within the Mysore schools who have taken part in the project. Case studies such as that found in Mysore however reflect true partnership between local government (Zilla Panchayath), schools and local NGOs. The role of all of these stakeholders are essential in order to create well functioning schools both in terms of facilities as well as promoting hygiene education. Support from all of these stakeholders are essential and provide an essential link in upgrading the livelihood of school children.

1 To get assesses of this survey contact, Manoj Kumar at Zilla Panchayath, Project Co-Ordinator (Sanitation), Mysore 570 005.

2 A preliminary survey indicates that school attendance has increase significantly from 78% to 89%; and school reduction in dropout has come down from 22% to 11%.

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