“Aaj ka Chanda aur Suraj kaun kaun hain?” Students Creating Awareness about Hygiene

Ananya’s Fellowship is made possible by the Rural India Supporting Trust. 

Who are today’s “the Moon” and “the Sun”?

The students start to gather. Some are busy sweeping, some are watering the plants, some are arranging the sound box, and so on, as they are in the school. Once you step inside the school, you can feel the warmth in the morning hours. Now, slowly, the teachers start to gather too. They’re all coming for the school assembly. A group of students are helping to organize the other students into a proper queue. These students are also helping other students to dress properly, helping them in combing their hair, getting their shirts tucked in, checking that their nails are cut a proper length, and so on.

Recognition of Chanda and Suraj in Morning Assembly of Government Upgraded Middle School Desua of Ujjiyarpur Block in Samastipur Bihar, India. (Photo courtesy: Ananya Saha)

As the final call for the assembly is aired, some of the children come running, gasping for air, until they settle in organised rows. There is a small group leading the assembly. The state anthem, song of Bihar, rings in the assembly, as students sing along. I notice that some students are trying to be more attentive, shutting their eyes. The procedure is going on for quite some time, continuing for the next 20 minutes in total synchronization. It features different activities, like story-telling, sharing thoughts of the day, doing a quiz, reading the news – and a selection of “Chanda and Suraj”.

That sounds different.

“Chanda” means Moon and “Suraj” means Sun in Hindi and other Indian languages. But in this context, the Moon and the Sun do not play a mythical or special role, but serve as an example. Here, the selection of “Chanda” and “Suraj” identifies two children for the day in the school who are the most well-dressed among all. The selection happens every single day during the morning assembly. This recognition acts as a motivation and positive reinforcement for the other students to be well-dressed. Rounds of applause and the crown on their heads act as a morale booster for the school.

Self-designed crowns designated for Chanda and Suraj in Government Upgraded Middle School Desua of Ujjiyarpur Block in Samastipur Bihar, India. (Photo Courtesy: Ananya Saha)

Initiating the idea of cleanliness and hygiene is an important task for the students in the school. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) has launched this approach as a part of the school health and hygiene programme. Quest Alliance, through their Anandshala programme, is tackling it in a more participatory way. They engage the students in the process of selection and coming out with innovative ways of recognizing and awarding the students to reinforce health and hygiene. Creative activities about the school’s health and hygiene practices help the students be more inclined towards their school activities and practices in general. As a result, students are trying to maintain a good hygiene and come to school enthusiastically.

The schools are framing their vision towards the school hygiene projects, which is binding the students towards the school activities. The students are imbibing the healthy habits, like washing hands before meals.

Hand washing is fun now!

For example, in the Government Middle School Waini of Samastipur in Bihar, the students have initiated a Soap Bank to create a repository of soaps to bridge the gap of resources. This soap bank has come up with the contribution from the students and teachers of the school, as in one soap per students and five soaps per teachers. Simultaneously, going back home the students are sparking the healthy habit in their communities. This ultimately bridges the gap between the students, the school and the community.

“The children are now asking for soaps to wash their hands”, says the Health and Hygiene Minister of the school.

The Soap Bank in the hand washing station at Government Upgraded Middle School Waini of Pusa Block in Samastipur, Bihar, India. Photo Courtesy: The Author

With time, students in public schools in Samastipur, Bihar, are including the school cleanliness programme in their yearly agenda. They are now raising their voices about sanitation issues in the school and trying to come up with solutions for it. Along with the basic cleaning before the morning assembly, they are demanding clean toilets, repairing of the infrastructure, running water facilities, safe drinking water stations, and hand washing stations in their schools. These messages are being carried back to the community. They are also initiating the hygiene practices back in their community, just like encouraging to wash hands before having meals. They are asking their parents to get them in proper dress-up before coming to the school. The community is also attending the parents and teachers meetings to discuss the matters of sanitation and hygiene practice and water crisis in the school. They are paying attention towards the trial for innovations in the school. They are developing the motivation towards their school.

Anandshala is playing a significant role in mobilizing students in creating changes in the public schools of Samastipur in Bihar. They involve the students to flag discussions and foster creative thinking about their school. Partnering with the school teachers and headteachers, they are integrating the students into the school development activities. They are also creating a platform and recognizing the changes happening in the school with the District Education Department of the Government of Bihar. The students are now also feeling the connect towards their school. These approaches are helping them and especially the girls to stay back in the school – even on their menstruation. This is assuring them to stay back and ensuring the attendance level in the school. Slowly, the students are gathering confidence about their school and building the ownership on their school. Thereby it is helping to bridge the gap between the students and the school and also with the community.

Ananya strongly believes in story-telling and capacity of an individual to share their own story to create change. Through her fellowship with Quest Alliance in Samastipur, Bihar she is trying to capture the stories of change and creating platform to share the same. William J. Clinton Fellowship has provided her an opportunity to explore her creative ideas and skills. She is proud to pursue her fellowship with Quest Alliance. She has completed her post-graduation in Masters of Social Work from Visva-Bharati, India. She flagged her professional career with Pratham, focusing on the education of children of Tea Tribes in North-eastern India. Moving towards central India she has worked in Ekjut with Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (formerly known as Primitive Tribal Groups) of Jharkhand state, for ensuring their nutrition and food security. She is a selected change maker of Change.org campaigning for Universalization of Maternity Entitlement for all women. She enjoys singing and music, especially playing guitar.

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