Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Toilet

Two school girls enter the girls washroom. They see one girl who has left the door open of a cubicle while the girl is using the toilet. Girls come back and share it with their teacher. All are wondering why? Obvious answer could be, door wouldn't close. Girls replied, No sir it does close. The maybe the girl is claustophobic. Girls think maybe. These girls go to the same washroom after a week. Again find a girl whose left a door open. They wonder why so.. Teacher asked, was it a very young girl, primary, then its fine, maybe shes scared to close the door. This way she feels more assuring. Girls said. "Sir, the last times girl was maybe from 7/8 standard, This one was elder, 11th and 12th grade'.

This all started after I decided to take the topic of Toilets as a PBL project to my students. We had 5/6 more topics that the kids could choose from. So why should they select my topic. Sure I wanted them to select mine, so with kids we could work on the solutions. So I informed them about my topic and why the topic. I wondered how many girls would join in. I sure wanted good number of girls to take up the topic, as it affects more to them.

Many groups took the the topic. Boys and girls alike, In fact more girls choose topic. There were varied groups. All girls group, mixed groups and all boys groups. This was not your any other project. This was real, it affects all of us at some or the other point and we wanted to make sincere effort at solving it.

I wanted kids to first uderstand the problem at its social level not just through newspapers and internet but by meeting actual people who get affected. Kids had to choose their target groups. Target groups that kids chose ranged from

Watchemens
House Maids
Working women
People who have to travel long distance for work.
Rural schools
Rural areas
Slum dwellers
School girls
Girls learning in muncipal schools
College girls
Homeless people etc.

Students made a questionnaire, which they kept handy when they interviewd these people. Studnets made video's of their interview too. Students also recorded the toilets they visited. One group compared the video of a toilet the visited in a slum and the one they visited in an european country. This sensitized the studets a lot. Students shared with each other how they felt while speaking to these people. I remember a girl mentioning how a woman started crying while talking to them. Some other group of students were pleaded by people to do something for them. Students uderstood the gravity of the problem.

Students also did online surveys, one group collected data from allo over the coutry by sending out forms to different relatives. One group collected data from schools of a Naxal hit area. It was a comprehensive research.

While presenting one of the girls also mentioned about how difficult it is to go to a work place or school during the tie of periods. The social stigma attached to it. Why the stigma is not right and even gave practical solution. Another lady teacher sitting with me told, "I like the way she presented the topic as sensitive as periods with so much confidence" Exactly what the idea of PBL was. Kids becoming aware, sensitized, talk about probelms and try to solve them.

In the next phase we moved on to finding out solutions that already exist and collating them. Kids did in depth research of finding local solutions, solutions used in some other countries. Invented, devised their own solutions. Solutions ranged from mobile apps, carry with you toilets, pop up toilets, mobile toilets, handheld objects etc.  All of them knew the solutions have to be practical.

I could give list of solutions that kids have given Its most fun when kids presented it though. Some used a movie clipping, some made a jingle, some told real life stories, some showed self shot video, role plays etc without loosing the gravity of the topic.

We came across lot of things that we wondered why  happened. Girls not washing their hands after using toilets. some didnt wash cause the soap itself was dirty. Girls not using the washrooms in the school/college at all. Since they dont want use washroom they wont drink water the full day. Kids also analysed effect of that on their health. Safety issues related with lack of toilets, when girls have to go in open and ou could have boys loitering around. Girls leaving schools due to lack of toilets espcially after puberty. Cleanliness being one of the major issues where toilets exisisted, the upkeep maintenance not being done-for eg. What good is a toilet if there is no water? (Of course we are not talking about vacuum ones here), throwing sanitary pads, non availablity of sanitary pads, cost effective sanitary pads for rural places and so on.

Kids did not stop at just finding the solutions themselves and presenting it. Kids took workshops with their target groups and spread awareness about the solutions available and goverment schemes to help them.

Few questions remianed unanswered. Like why those girls left the door open. Those girls found out that they were advised to do so. We wondered why? Maybe for the safety of the girls itself. My girls said, no sir it is little awkward to leave the toilet door open, even if its all girls only inside the washroom.

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