|Primary School Physical Environment and Health - WHO Global School Health Initiative (SIDA - WHO, 1997, 96 p.)|
|Appendix A. Case studies|
The state of Rajasthan in north-western India has a typical desert climate: hot and dry, with extreme temperature variations between night and day. Daytime temperatures often exceed 45 °C, while early morning temperatures may be below 10 °C. There is also a distinct winter season (November-February) with dry, sunny and cool weather. The rainy season, with heavy but infrequent monsoon rains, extends from late June to late September.
Rajasthan has a population of about 47 million people, living in over 50 000 villages and smaller communities. Many of these are located far away from any road usable by motor vehicles. There are an estimated 10 million primary school-age children (6-14 years). Officially there are about 37 000 primary schools in Rajasthan. In addition, thousands of informal education centres cater for children unable to attend formal school.
Most of the schools consist of a stone or concrete building with two or three classrooms and a veranda on one side. Some schools have no classroom accommodation. Others have no more than a simple teaching space of mud and thatch. According to the Fifth All-India Educational Survey, there are more than 6000 schools without any building or with buildings made of non-permanent materials. About 5000 communities are not served by a school at all.
A village school in Siwana Block, Rajasthan, India, consisting of two tiny classrooms, one large veranda and a perimeter wall, with no water supply and no toilet.
In Rajasthan, India lessons are often conducted out of doors, either because it is more comfortable or else because there is no classroom.
The standard classroom in Rajasthan has heavy masonry walls and small, shaded window openings. It is primarily designed to protect its users against excessive heat, yet for a large part of the year, temperatures inside these classrooms are far below what is required for comfort. For four or five months each year it is actually too cold to sit in a conventional classroom in the morning, especially for undernourished and scantily clad children. In the early hours, therefore, classes are often held outdoors, in the sun, against an east or south-east facing wall. After an hour or two it may be more comfortable to sit in the light shade of a tree, and so the class will move. Towards midday the deep shade of a veranda may offer more agreeable conditions. The classroom is often not used at all during this part of the year.
In Rajasthan, India classes are often held on the veranda.
In April and May, however, when the weather becomes really hot, a conventional building with a thick roof provides a better environment than any outdoor location. Classes are also held indoors when it rains. Unfortunately most rural schools in Rajasthan have leaking roofs. However, in most of Rajasthan there are, on average, only a few days of rain (from late October to early June).
Light conditions indoors are often poor. Windows are small, the veranda on one side blocks out much of the light, shutters are sometimes closed to keep out heat and dust, and there are only traces of white paint on ceiling and walls. There is no furniture except, usually, a table for the teacher. The children sit on the floor on thin mats.
Rural primary schools in Rajasthan, India have no desks. Children sit on the floor on thin mats.
The school compound is most often a dusty area without any paving, play equipment or attempts at landscaping. Sometimes there is a perimeter wall, but usually not. More than half of the schools have no water supply and most have no toilets. There is no functioning school health service in Rajasthan.
This case study shows that conventional primary-school buildings in Rajasthan are poor and potentially health-threatening environments. Teachers and students are able to cope with cold, poor light and overcrowding by using a variety of open and semi-open teaching spaces. Other deficiencies, particularly lack of water and sanitary facilities and inadequate maintenance, require a change of emphasis, as advocated in Chapter 4.
Attempts are being made, however, to reorder priorities through the Lok Jumbish Programme for Improvement of Primary Education in Rajasthan.(14) Village education committees have been formed and village-based funds established for the repair and maintenance of school buildings. Between 1992 and 1996, building development work began in 800 villages. A large number of architectural and engineering consultants continue to participate in this unique research and development effort. The Lok Jumbish programme, with its emphasis on maintenance and repairs, construction of boundary walls and the creation of gardens of learning,(3) is now beginning to have an impact on the general school buildings programme of the Rajasthan Government.(15)