ISLAMABAD, Nov 5 (APP): Despite a number of initiatives to ensure a healthy environment at Capital Territory educational institutions, better hygiene still remains a challenge exposing students to different kinds of ailments.
Although Oral Hygiene Program, provision of hygiene kits and steps like ensuring cleanliness of premises and toilettes, clean drinking water and overall tidy environment were already underway, yet there are still challenges like paucity of funds and staff.
Since the clean and hygienic school environment stands as a fundamental pillar for safeguarding the health and well-being of students and staff, it also serves as a powerful catalyst for nurturing a profound sense of pride and responsibility among them.
Drawing inspiration from the timeless wisdom found in the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who imparted, “Cleanliness is half of faith,” the school management can also derive a valuable lesson for the students.
Therefore, the schools are not only expected to impart better education but also better hygiene to fulfill the requirements of better health as well as a clean and healthy environment.
“Given the size of our educational institutions, it is often a challenging task for custodial staff to manage cleaning and maintenance tasks alone,” said Riffat Jabeen, Director Academics, Federal Directorate of Education (FDE).
“It is common that students litter the premises by throwing waste here and there even in the presence of waste bin,” she remarked. “Therefore, teachers emphasize the importance of cleanliness and hygiene during their lectures.”
She said the Head Teachers ensure cleaning supplies like disinfectants, toilet brushes, mops and cleaning clothes.
As per the FDE guidelines on hygiene the students are kept away from hazardous chemicals, students and staff are instructed on proper use of toilets, cleaning sinks and countertop surfaces and toilet floor after use.
“Heads of Institutions are specifically directed to encourage students to actively participate in ensuring a clean and healthy environment without compromising routine academic activities,” Riffat Jabeen informed.
Keeping in view the importance of hygiene facilities, the Federal Government has started the “Oral Hygiene Program” at 423 public sector schools and colleges under the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE).
Under this Program, the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training distributes ‘Hygiene Kits’ among students of government educational institutions within the ICT jurisdiction.
“Under the Hygiene Kits program started in April 2023, as many as 100,000 kits have been distributed among students,” Riffat Jabeen said. “Doctors are also engaged to guide students on health and hygiene issues.”
But, despite her claims, there are complaints of missing facilities especially at female schools, as poor cleanliness and substandard food supplied by canteens inside the institutions and private vendors outside, was proving to be hazardous for students’ health.
In many cases, there is also a deficiency of bathrooms as compared to the number of students with many needing immediate repair and up-gradation as Director Monitoring FDE Malik Sohail assured to bridge this gap and claimed these facilities would be provided sooner.
“Hygiene conditions are far better now than the past especially at institutions where the Principal and staff are active,” he said.
Contrary to his claims, the President Federal Government Teachers Association, Malik Ameer Ahmed Khan has pointed out the shortage of sanitary staff at a number of institutions.
“There is a shortage of staff at some schools and a requisition has been forwarded for more sweepers and sanitary workers,” he informed. “We are fully alive to better health of our children and the Association has formed a committee for identifying missing facilities at government schools and ensuring their earliest provision.”
There are also scattered reports of selling unhygienic food at some of the institutions although the authorities claim on random checking of the stuff being sold out at these outlets.
Similarly in numerous cases either the washrooms were worn out with broken tiles and flour or the lethargic response of sanitary staff, left these washrooms dirty and stuffy.
Keeping the playgrounds and flower beds tidy with frequent trimming is another issue especially in institutions in remote areas of the ICT as the focus remains on main institutions situated in the heart of the city.
As most of the buildings are properly cared of, there are instances of old and worn out furniture, soggy walls with falling whitewash and dirty floors, making the rooms’ environment stinky.
Caretaker Education Minister Madad Ali Sindhi in his recent visit to educational institutions had directed FDE to provide a detailed proposal for the maintenance of facilities. “The government would provide necessary funding for upgradation of the facilities.”
He also directed the FDE to regularly conduct an audit of food quality and cancel the contract of those involved in selling unhygienic food.
Although the government has initiated multiple measures to promote better hygiene at educational institutions, still there are challenges like inadequate attention to hygiene concepts in the curricula, an un-conducive environment and a communication gap between teachers and parents.
Therefore, the authorities must adopt a holistic approach by involving all stakeholders to promote hygiene, revise the curriculum and raise awareness among teachers, parents and students.
APP/qsr/maz (APP Feature Service)