Karnataka has decided to reintroduce the “water bell”, a concept that encourages schoolchildren to drink water at regular intervals at the ring of a bell.
With the rising number of cases of dehydration and complaints of stomachache and headache among children due to low water intake, Karnataka’s school education and literacy minister BC Nagesh told News18 that he has instructed the officials at the department of public instruction to reintroduce the concept.
The water bell idea was first introduced in Karnataka schools in 2019 after it was found to be a successful model in neighboring Kerala. States like Telangana and Andhra Pradesh also introduced it.
The bell would ring three times on a regular school day, and when it rang, children were encouraged to drink water. Post-pandemic, when schools reopened full-time, the water bell stopped ringing and plans are now afoot to revive it in Karnataka.
“It helps in their all-round development and health management. The water bell encourages them to keep their bodies hydrated and fit. It will be reintroduced in all schools (private and government) across the state,” Nagesh told News18.
When it was introduced in 2019, the water bell rang three times, at 10.35 am, 12 pm, and 2 pm every day. This break can also be used by the teachers to advise students about the advantages of water as a major life resource.
Speaking to News18, the commissioner for public instruction, Dr Vishal R, said the government was in the process of examining the proposal and his department was awaiting formal communication from the secretariat.
“It certainly is a good idea and the government will soon take necessary action keeping in view the health of children,” he said.
Kerala was the first state to introduce the water bell model to ensure healthy and hydrated children after Thrissur-based physical education teacher Jenil John came up with the idea. He found acute dehydration as the main cause for the rise in the number of children going on sick leave due to headaches, infections, and fever.
A former national-level handball player, Jenil, who works at St Joseph’s Upper Primary School, Thrissur, produced a documentary about a thirsty little boy who despite feeling faint did not drink water. The documentary was about a boy who suffers from a severe stomachache and his teacher helps him with a bottle of water. An announcement in school about the advantages of drinking water makes the child protagonist realize the importance. “This led us to think of a water bell, one that reminds students to drink water just like it does when we start or end a day in school,” said Jenil.
“I decided to shoot small videos of children drinking water. Each time I saw a child, I asked them to drink water for the camera. Seeing that they were being recorded, they were influenced to drink. The documentary made a good impact on their minds,” he added.
Paediatricians News18 spoke to also highlighted the spike in cases of dehydration and related health issues among schoolchildren.
Dr Avinash Ashok Sherkane, chief paediatrician at the Abhayahasta Multispeciality Hospitals, Bengaluru, felt that the water bell is a good concept that will force children to drink water and make it a habit for the rest of their lives as well.
“Habits like these when introduced at a young age can go a long way in giving them a healthy life. In addition to water being indispensable and the elixir of life, hydration is required for maintaining essential electrolyte balance, removal of toxins, acid-base balance, and to keep all organs in check including the kidneys,” Dr Sherkane said.
Shailaja, a parent of two young school-going children, often found their water bottles come back home half-empty or sometimes hardly touched. This became a cause of concern when her younger daughter began complaining of severe headaches and stomach cramps. A visit to the doctor revealed a case of acute dehydration.
The paediatrician explained that children are usually very active in school and often in their excitement to play forget to drink water leading to dehydration.
“Dehydration leads to headache, dizziness, halitosis (often mouth stink), cognitive problems in the brain, muscle cramps, tiredness, confusion, and poor kidney function, and in some extreme cases it could even lead to death,” he said.
Another parent who wanted to maintain anonymity spoke of the importance of toilet breaks especially when the water bell concept is going to be introduced.
“Children will drink water and then they should also go to the washroom. Some schools do not allow children to take toilet breaks when they want to go. They are instructed to use their interval time to go to the washrooms. It’s unfair to make children control their bladder and it leads to more health problems,” the parent said while adding that there are many parents whose children face this situation.
When this was also brought to the notice of the minister, Nagesh said he will investigate the complaints and school authorities will be sensitized on the matter.
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