Nepal: separate toilets for schoolgirls – a justified investment?

Nepal may be justifying a US$ 15 million investment in separate school toilets for girls for the wrong reasons suggests an IRIN news article.

The government says separate toilet would:

reduce the number of girls missing classes or dropping out because of the lack of private changing facilities during menstrual cycles – despite a recent study suggesting menstruation has very little to do with why girls attend school less regularly than boys.

While improved school sanitation may improve health, Emily Oster, one of the principal authors of a study in Nepal of the impact of menstruation on school attendance said:

“As far as we know, there is no quantitative evidence of the impact of separate toilets on girl’s schooling… what we can say based on our paper is that menstruation has only a very tiny impact on schooling for girls.”

This view was supported by Bed Prasad Kaju, headmaster of Sanjewani Model High School, a state school in Dhulikhel Municipality, 20km north of Kathmandu:

“The girl students have bigger problems than menstruation affecting their studies or class attendance, like helping their parents in household chores”. [...] He said his school did not have enough toilets but more than 50 percent of his 1,100 students were girls. They attended regularly and their achievements matched those of the boys, he added.

Most of Nepal’s 28,000 state secondary schools lack girls’ toilets and in the few that do have them at least 250 girls are forced to use one latrine, said education specialist Helen Sherpa from international NGO World Education.

The new government scheme plans to install separate girls’ toilets in 5,500 secondary schools by the end of 2011, and in all secondary schools by 2014-15, said Khagaraj Baral, director of planning at the Department of Education.

Related web site: WASH in Schools

Source: IRIN, 18 Ma 2011

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