Clean India - Clean schools

WASH contributes to more healthy children in school and learning.

Champa Bag, Prime Minister of the Child Cabinet, enjoys a fun hand wash demonstration session at their dedicated hand washing station at the Pujariguda UGHS school in Rayagada district.
UNICEF/UN0272154/Latif

Children spend a significant amount of time in school and so it’s not surprising that the school environment plays a large role in determining whether they stay healthy and continue to learn or not. When schools have clean toilets for both boys and girls, access to clean water and are hygienic this contributes to more children attending school and learning.

When schools are made into enabling environments with access to water, sanitation, and health-related services more girls are likely to stay in school which reduces the risk of early marriage and pregnancy. This is because girls often don’t go to school during menstruation if the school does not have appropriate facilities, and slowly they start to fall behijd and even drop out.  Studies have shown that a quarter of all girls in school in India took time off when menstruating. One of the key reasons for this was inadequate gender-specific toilets, non-availability of sanitary pads and dirty toilets in schools (also due to poor cleaning, lack of water and lack of disposal facilities).[1]

Some 22 per cent of schools in India, according to the study, did not have appropriate toilets for girls and 58 per cent of preschools had no toilet at all (Rapid survey on children 2013-14). Also, some 56 per cent of preschools had no water available on the premises. In many rural schools in India, water quality remains a major issue, as many schools do not have adequate water treatment facilities for testing for contaminants like iron, arsenic or fluoride (Rapid survey on children 2013-14).

To tackle these issues, The Government of India launched a nationwide campaign, Swachh Bharat: Swachh Vidyalaya (SBSV), or “Clean India: Clean Schools”, in 2014. SBSV’s goal is to make a visible impact on children's health and hygiene through improving both their health and hygiene practices and those of their families and communities. Another aim is to improve the WASH curriculum and teaching methods while promoting hygiene practices and community ownership of water and sanitation facilities within schools. This has improved children’s health, school enrolment, attendance and retention and paves the way for a new generation of healthy children.

SBSV focuses on good WASH practices including the provision of safe drinking water, group handwashing and ensuring toilet and soap facilities are available in the school compound for use by all children and teachers. It also includes activities that promote good practices in schools that help to prevent water, hygiene and sanitation-related diseases.


[1] Review of Menstrual Hygiene Management in Schools in India, Department of Clinical Sciences, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), Liverpool, UK and UNICEF 2014-15                      

Every school in India must have six essential requirements that make up a good school WASH programme.

  • Separate toilets for boys and girls, including having soap. There needs to be adequate, menstrual hygiene management facilities, private space for changing, adequate water for cloth washing and disposal facilities for menstrual waste.
  • Sufficient group handwashing facilities which allow groups of 10-12 students to wash their hands at the same time. The handwashing station should be simple, scalable and sustainable, relying on  minimum water.
  • Daily provision of child-friendly and sustainable safe drinking water and adequate water for handwashing. In addition, the provision of safe water for school cleaning and food preparation and cooking. Safe handling and storage of drinking water should be practiced throughout the school.
  • All water, sanitation and handwashing facilities need to be clean, functional and well maintained to ensure that the intended results are achieved, and monetary investments made in installing these systems are not lost.
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene behaviour change communication activities should be part of the daily routine of all children. Girls are to be taught menstrual hygiene management by female teachers in a sensitive and supportive manner.
  • Capacities are to be improved at various levels within the sector, to develop the right mix of skills, knowledge and experience to facilitate, finance, manage and monitor water, sanitation and hygiene programmes in schools effectively.

Partnership for clean schools in India

UNICEF is a strong partner of the Government of India for the Swachh Bharat: Swachh Vidyalaya (SBSV) Campaign working to ensure that every school in India has a set of functioning and well-maintained water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

We are working at the state level to ensure that WASH in Schools is a key agenda for School Management Committees (SMCs) and school development plans. Our programmes continuously endeavor to develop children’s capacity and knowledge around WASH so that they can advocate for increased demand for WASH in Schools.

At the school level hygiene awareness and practice kits were developed by UNICEF for the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). The kits use games and play as a fun method for sharing and maintaining key good hygiene practices among children, focusing on using toilets at all times, and handwashing with soap before eating, after defecation and after playing.

UNICEF is supporting the training of officials, teachers, resource coordinators and other school related functionaries on WASH in schools to address the skill gaps in supervision, operation and maintenance of WASH facilities and to expand water, hygiene and sanitation outreach activities in surrounding communities.

Schools are important institutes in a child’s life and when they are clean they contribute to clean and healthy communities both now and in the future.