A toilet and running tap water has changed the life of seventh grader Reena Kumar, the captain of Rehna Government School girls’ handball team in Haryana. Till some time ago, the 14-year-old had to coerce her parents to send her to school. She was one among only eight girls who attended classes regularly. The reason? Her friends from the village did not attend school as it did not have a secure lavatory.

This is the story of many villages in India where a lack of infrastructure and hygienic conditions in government schools is hampering the education and progress of little children. Studies have revealed that lack of basic amenities like toilets, access to water and hygienic infrastructure creates an unwelcoming and non-conducive environment in such schools, leading to high rates of absenteeism and drop outs.

It is the girl child who is affected most by the lack of such infrastructure. As they enter adolescence, they are often forced to stay at home because there are no separate toilets for them in rural schools. This is one of the reasons that Coca-Cola India, in collaboration with various partners, such as SRF Foundation, launched the ‘Support My School’ campaign, an initiative that revitalises schools through providing better sanitation, access to water and playing facilities among other things. Things changed for the better when the ‘Support My School’ project took Reena’s school under its wings.

Reena beams, “Now there are 11 girls in my class... the eighth grade has 15 girls this year. Many more of my friends will join school in the next term,” Reena said. “My parents are not worried about sending me to school anymore,” says Reena, the middle-back for her school’s 12-member handball team. “We practice for two hours every day in the morning. After practice, we use newly built washroom to freshen up and attend classes,” she adds.

Such an impact of the ‘Coca-Cola NDTV Support My School’ programme can be seen in several schools across the country. The campaign is dedicated to raising awareness and funds to deal with the above situation and to bring together partners in an effort to revitalise schools in rural and semi-urban India.