Government higher primary school in Medahalli
Waste accumulated inside the compound of Medahalli government higher primary school.Amal Rasheedali

You won't believe, but this image was shot inside a school campus within Bengaluru city limits. Of course, it's a government-run school -- the higher primary school in Medahalli on Old Madras Road. This is where students were forced to urinate in open areas after the first spell of rain caused a drainage block nearby, making toilets inside the compound overflow with filth. 

While hygiene in government-run educational institutions in Karnataka has been in dubious state, the situation at the Medahalli school was worse. Students were forced to urinate in the open for 15 days, filth and waste flowed into the compound and students and teachers got ill.

Upon investigation, the International Business Times learned that though the teachers complained to the civic authorities no one turned up until the news received wide attention through the media.

Ms Vijayalakshmi, the headmistress, told IBT that no one came to the school's rescue initially. She said the students were suffering from fever due to the unhygienic environment at the school and she was herself on leave due to fever.

"The school only has a partial compound wall which is only at the front without a gate. The sewers in front of the school are also partially open as they are recently constructed," said another teacher.

It's obvious that despite the nation-wide cleanliness drive, the government and civic authorities are paying little attention to basic hygiene in many of the government schools. The Medahalli school does not have a proper compound wall or gate. During rains waste flows inside the school compound and accumulates there. The fact that the adjoining drain gets blocked during rains worsens the filth problem in the compound. 

Sewage flowing from the toilet at government higher primary school in Medahalli
Sewage flowing from the toilet at government higher primary school in MedahalliAmal Rasheedali

The school has some 18 toilets but all of them became unusable after the drain block. The school premises were covered in filth and foul smell was oozing from the toilets, forcing students to urinate in a vacant area nearby the school.

When the authorities woke up and acted, they realised that the underground drainage (UGD) pipe was damaged by some telecom companies while they were laying underground cable.

government higher primary school in Medahalli
The half-built compound wall of government higher primary school in Medahalli with partially covered drainage.Amal Rasheedali

After the sewage water flowed from the toilets to the main compound of the school, the teachers had to accompany the female students to the empty areas fearing the presence of anti-social elements. 

The Medahalli school has been functioning from 2001 and has over 200 students studying there.

The civic authorities including Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) and Public Works Department (PWD) came on Monday and assured they would clean the mess. They have also promised to build a new compound wall and clear the drainage. 

Government higher primary school in Medahalli
Government higher primary school in MedahalliAmal Rasheedali

The Block Education Officer of KR Puram zone, Saleem Pasha, said he got the complaint on Friday July 19. He immediately contacted BWSSB officials, who said the telecom company had damaged UGD pipe which caused the situation. He said the authorities are attending to the matter and the issue will be cleared within three days.

In 2018, the Karnataka government identified 2,007 schools in the state without toilet facilities. After the education board wrote to the government demanding facilities the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) had replied that all the schools would be provided with toilets.

As many as 2,007 toilets, 1,357 for boys and 650 for girls, were supposed to be built with a budget of Rs 34.11 crore, with each toilet costing around Rs 1.7 lakh. But still many of the government schools in the state lack proper toilets or most of them are dysfunctional.