May 13, 2008 / 8:57 AM / 9 years ago

Barbers turn health educators in eastern Indian schools

<p>A man gets a shave from a barber under a tree along a pavement in Mumbai in this December 20, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Anuruddha Lokuhapuarachchi</p>

PATNA, India (Reuters) - An eastern Indian state is recruiting around 4,000 barbers to give free haircuts to poor children to improve hygiene and stop the children “looking funny,” a senior government official said.

The barbers, paid a monthly wage of 1,500 rupees (around $37), will work in some 45,000 primary and middle schools in Jharkhand.

“We are hiring thousands of barbers as health educators in schools,” Jharkhand human resources development minister Bandhu Tirkey said on Tuesday.

“There are many poor children who can’t afford to have regular haircuts and attend school with long hair which looks funny ... neat hair is also hygienic for students,” the minister added.

Jharkhand is one of India’s poorest states with a strong tribal population.

Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Valerie Lee

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