Making a Difference
PwC INDIA FOUNDATION
The foundation was formed in 2008 with the objective of making a difference in the areas of education and environment sustainability. Expansion of our work evolved to encompass issues of urban children, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), social entrepreneurship and humanitarian needs of people affected by natural calamities. Our initiatives revolve around the following:
- Empowering communities: partnership with local bodies and NGOs on diverse issues such as addressing health needs of community from vulnerable background, drought mitigation programs and develop the capacities of disaster-hit communities to recover and rehabilitate.
- Enabling Participation: Support is harnessed from PwC employees through skilled-based volunteering or pro-bono engagements to create value in society
- Special Initiatives: collaboration with different stakeholders to address fundamental challenges of our country. PwC’s marquee report titled ‘Forgotten voices: The world of urban children in India’ focused on the issues of children from vulnerable sections and enabled decision makers to integrate requirements and entitlements of children in urban planning and implementation. In addition, the Global Dignity initiative was launched nation-wide; that sought to promote the message of dignity among the younger generation.
Health and Sanitation & Education
Children in urban India comprise 30% of the total population, yet their needs are not taken into account in urban planning. Those from disadvantaged sections are susceptible to illness and urban disasters; have poor access to water, sanitation and education; and lack protection. To address these issues, PwC India, in collaboration with Save the Children, brought out an insightful report that turns the spotlight on urban children.
The report, ‘Forgotten voices: The world of urban children in India’, looks at the challenges children face in cities. For its cohesive examination of the issues affecting the growth and development of urban Indian children, the report has been appreciated and recognised as being the first of its kind. The report captures the voices of working, slum, street and runaway children. They spoke about their problems, came up with solutions and also shared their dreams.
The report reveals the interconnections between different focus areas and highlights the need for adequate measures to be taken in any given realm in order to ensure overall improvement. For example, sanitation affects the health of children. Half a million children under the age of five die due to diarrhoea, which is caused by poor water quality. Children also suffer from typhoid, cholera and malaria due to lack of sanitation services.
Findings from the report helped PwC India Foundation design a unique programme that aligns with India’s focus on empowering the girl child through the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana and providing sanitation facilities in the country through the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
The PwC India Foundation endeavours to reach out to those who are neglected by mainstream intervention programmes. The schools we chose to work with were attended by children from BPL families, who are often not aware nor taught how to practise safe sanitation. In most cases, the heads of the households were casual labourers. It became relevant to demonstrate improved sanitation practices which could be adopted by the children and through them to the families.
The first intervention was specifically aimed at the schoolgoing children of Ajmer and later initiatives were extended to schools in Hyderabad and residential school for boys with visual impairment in Kolkata. This initiative was also extended to schools for visually impaired children.
Adopting improved sanitation and hygiene practices was a strategic plan that aimed to enhance the children’s health status, thereby creating a conducive environment for school and children to focus on the academic performance.
Needs assessment was conducted in schools mostly located in the suburban/rural areas of Ajmer, Hyderabad and Kolkata. The assessment highlighted that schools located in rural and semi-urban areas lacked proper infrastructure, had poor operations and management, and witnessed relatively low resource allocation. The non-functional toilets, operational challenges in keeping the toilets clean and lack of hygiene demotivated the children and teachers. Additionally, schools with a higher number of students faced a shortage of toilets that diverted their attention from their studies.
The growth of water and sanitation infrastructure in schools has not kept pace with the quality of operation and maintenance of infrastructure. Some of the common challenges faced by schools with water and sanitation facilities include:
- Non-existent or insufficient water supply and handwashing facilities
- Toilets which are not adapted to the needs of children, especially girls
- Broken toilets, unclean, water supply, unhygienic sanitation and handwashing facilities
- Poor hygiene and handwashing practices among children
- Improper operation and maintenance of existing facilities
Given these challenges, the environment at schools was observed to be unsafe as it was easy for diseases to be transmitted in the unhygienic conditions. For example, one of the most common problems faced by the schoolchildren was the spread of infections, primarily from contaminated water and poor sanitation facilities.
Poor sanitation infrastructure at schools, especially for girls and students with visual impairment, in rural areas was a grave concern as it affected their attendance and learning curve. Especially during the menstrual period, the girls prefer to stay at home due to challenges experienced with non-availability of clean toilets and handwashing facilities. This affected their academic growth.
Moreover, the toilets in these schools were not user friendly. As a result, children did not feel encouraged to use them regularly. Importantly, the facilities did not take into account the needs of children with visual impairment students. The dilapidated condition of the toilets—broken pipes, plaster, etc.—further posed a safety hazard.
Support from the PwC India Foundation
A WASH-based intervention was introduced which included the construction of new toilets, renovation of existing toilets and improvement of drinking water/handwashing units. An important part of this support was the focus on soft skills training. A 90-day soft skills training programme was held for every class, and it involved the participation of the school management committee (SMC) and child cabinets. This training was customised to suit the needs of the students by introducing a fictional cartoon character named ‘Rani’, who was used to explain the processes of handwashing, menstrual care, etc. Students could easily relate to the character of Rani whose pictures were posted with dos and don’ts, steps to wash hands, and care and caution to be maintained during menstruation.
Boys who were visually impaired were given information on WASH which was later translated to Braille for the benefit of other batches.
The initial phase of the intervention included interactions with teachers/principals to sensitise them to the needs and challenges of students. Thereafter, there was a focus on the creation and strengthening of a child cabinet which encouraged students to take decisions and train their peers.
During the implementation phase, the school authorities, students and parents were consulted on the location of toilets and handwashing units. This led to a feeling of belongingness and ownership in maintaining future standards.
Furthermore, separate training sessions were conducted for the masons and cleaning staff who worked in the schools. As part of the training sessions, the staff were provided with not only cleansing materials but also uniforms, boots and face masks. This was done to encourage the cleaning staff to maintain hygiene themselves and gave them a sense of pride in directly contributing to the health and hygiene of students and teachers.
As a holistic step, the PwC India Foundation encouraged volunteers from PwC to visit the schools and interact with the students so as to create a conducive environment for them to exchange knowledge and learnings about their school environment.
In Ajmer, many behavioural change activities were conducted, first with the school authorities and then with students from all grades.
Additionally, school-led total sanitation initiatives gathered momentum and created awareness among parents and community members. Parents were also trained during parent-teacher meetings to become active members in the growth and development of their children.
Through the WASH intervention, PwC has reached out to more than 9,000 girls and 2,000 boys across different schools in Ajmer, Hyderabad and Kolkata.
The school students participated and conducted a school rally on World Handwashing Day. They also conducted week-long activities to encourage sanitation practices and promote them on a large scale.
While toilet construction is ongoing in Kolkata and Hyderabad, Ajmer has exhibited high success rates in sanitation practices among students. Post the intervention and WASH-related behavioural training, 99% of the students who were interviewed reported that they were now using the handwashing facilities and proper handwashing techniques they had been taught. During menstrual cycles, the average attendance would drop; this scenario changed with the availability and accessibility of clean toilets, vending machines and incinerators. This is directly impacting the children’s attendance and academic performance.
Two schools that were part of PwC’s WASH intervention were given a five-star rating, while eight schools received a four-star rating at the district level. Moreover, one of the schools was awarded a score of 81 under the Ministry of Human Resource Development’s ‘Swachh Bharat, Swachh Vidyalaya Puraskar’ scheme in 2016. These schools have become models of functional and sustainable WASH programmes that can be scaled up.