Effect of improved WASH in schools on Girls’ Educational Outcomes

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities and services in schools (WinS) play an important role in increasing enrolment, ensuring regular attendance, and eventually better learning.

Children from Lalmatia slum wash their hands during the Hand Wash Program


The importance of WinS for education is acknowledged by even the Right to Education Act, which mandates basic WASH facilities in schools. Successive governments have invested in WinS through various programmes since early 1990s and development organizations such as UNICEF have been supporting such government efforts for decades.   

Since 2014, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) has instilled a greater sense of urgency for sanitation and cleanliness in households, communities and institutions including schools and today promoted as the biggest behaviour change programme in the World.  Under the larger context of SBM, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), now the Ministry of Education (MoE), launched Swachh Bharat Swachh Vidyalaya (SBSV) initiative to improve access to WASH facilities, promote their use and maintenance, and make WASH a movement in the schools. 

The MHRD constituted Swachh Vidyalaya Puraskar (SVP) in 2016 to motivate schools to excel in WinS through the spirit of competition among schools.  Under SVP, schools are required to improve upon and are assessed for multiple WASH components. 

The primary research question for the study is “Does improvement in water, sanitation and handwashing facilities and practices achieved under the context of SBSV reduce school absenteeism of girl students?”. The self-assessment ratings of school under SVP 2017-18 were required to be used as the proxy indicator for WinS levels.  The study was designed to find associations between high SVP ratings and absenteeism as well as other secondary outcomes of interest – enrolment and learning outcomes. 

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