Few days back, it was my birthday and we decided to celebrate in an NGO funded primary school for underprivileged kids. The school is in the hinterlands of Chattisgarh. Our plan was to sponsor their afternoon lunch and share the food with the kids and staff.
So three of us- My husband, my son and I reached the school at the meal time . It was such a fun experience –to celebrate my birthday amongst so many kids. But more than anything, it was a hugely humbling experience. The kids come from the lowest income strata of the society. Their books, clothes, educational aids and the meals- everything is sponsored by the NGO. The NGO workers make best use of whatever resources they have at hand still we could sense that a lot needs to be done.
The staff told us that they have to face so many hurdles. First major hurdle is the dropout rate. Kids don’t turn up only as their parents are not aware of the benefits of education. Their parents think that it’s better to make their kids work as labourers so that they can earn for at least one decent meal a day. Even if they turn up, they are not regular due to one reason or the other. One of the major reason they skip school is they fall sick frequently.
The kids were eagerly waiting for the food to be served. I knew that their heart was not in the studies. The tempting aroma of food was just too much to handle for their tummies. As soon as their teacher gave them the go ahead signal, they quickly queued up with their plates (See pictures). I noticed that none of them bothered with washing their hands or wiping their plates.
Finally, kids sat down to have food. We too decided to start our meal. I went to wash my hands and noticed that there was no soap near the tap! When I inquired, their teacher, Suman ji told me that firstly the kids are not used to washing their hands, even if they do, they are so hungry at lunch time that they do a half-hearted hand wash with water only. And last but not the least- soap is such a luxury for them that some of them steal it and carry it home. And here we are…cribbing for every third thing in life. Spare a thought for those who struggle for basic food and sanitation.
So anyways…fast forward to present times and I came across this brilliant concept of merging soap and chalk sticks by Savlon under their ‘’Swasth India Mission’’. Now chalks in city schools are not so much a part of school routine what with smart boards and white boards with markers however in towns and villages, they are an integral part of learning as kids start practicing alphabets and numbers on slate boards with chalks first and then graduate to copies and pens and pencils.
These Healthy Hand chalk sticks, when they come in contact with water turn into soap. They foam up and even if the kid is in a great hurry to get done with washing his/her hands, it is assured that the hand wash is proper and complete. So it’s a two way win- first they fight illiteracy while writing with these chalks and when they go to wash their hands, the Healthy Hands chalk powder on their hands turns into soap and helps them in fighting with disease-causing germs as well. Score!
I am sure these chalk sticks will definitely bring down the drop-out rates as kids will not fall sick as frequently. It is also a fun thing to watch your chalk stick bubble up and form soap…so I am sure, just to see this phenomena happening they’ll take up the habit of washing hands and last but not the least- the practice of stealing soap from school premises will stop. Suman Ji will surely approve! Three cheers to Savlon for such a brilliant and thoughtful concept.