School toilets are the pits

By Siva Darshan and Chung Hosanna 

NATURE calls! You rush out of class, down the stairs, pass the staff-room,through the canteen, and ... oops ... make a wrong turn. No worries, the smell will lead the way!

However, once you come within 100 metres of the toilets, the stench is too much to bear and the sight is definitely not one for sore eyes. You grit your teeth, hold your breath, and tell yourself "I think I can, I think I can ... that is, do my business with one hand holding on to the door and trying not to puke".

Sounds familiar? Don't laugh! This is sh** serious business. Why else do you think the government launched the National Clean Toilet Campaign 2003 on Monday?

What's even more alarming, according to a recent survey by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, an estimated 90 per cent of school toilets are not in proper working condition.

Let's face it, we have bad hygiene standards. But is it really our fault? YouthQuake got down and dirty by interviewing students about the state of their school toilets, who should be responsible, and how things can be improved.

Here's what they have to say.

"I don't understand why the Education Ministry has not allocated sufficient funds for something so important and (which is) a basic necessity. I know for a fact that my school library was provided with RM20,000 so why not (allocate funds for) the toilets?

"When building new schools, the ministry should increase the number of toilets. Schools facing a toilet shortage could build new toilets with funds from the PTA.

"It's interesting that in Living Skills classes, we learn how the plumbing system works. In Chemistry class we learn to analyse the chemicals in toilet-cleaning fluids, but we (are not) taught to keep the toilets clean.

"Why are we taught how to keep our teeth clean (in primary school) but not our toilets? I seriously think we should be reminded about these things ... at least at the beginning of the term." - Zana Ibrahim, 19, Kuala Lumpur

"All teachers do is to complain that the students' toilets are just too smelly. Can't they do something about it?" - Shannon Gomez, 15, Kuala Lumpur

"I once asked my teacher why there was no running water in the toilet taps. The reply? 'No money, no water'.

"I don't bother keeping the toilets clean myself. What difference can one person make? Besides, it was dirty to begin with. Not just me, almost everyone has an indifferent attitude to the toilet's cleanliness.

"In Singapore, I was told that they run courses on how to use female urinals. I know it sounds like a ridiculous idea to ask teachers to teach students how to use the toilets but if they don't do that, who will?" - B.E Yap, 14, Johor Baru.

"There's clearly a lack of toilets in my school. There are no toilets in some of the blocks and the nearest one to my class is a long walk away. This is ridiculous since a block can have about 300 students.

"Having said that, the toilets in my school are relatively clean. Of course, not as clean as those at home, but I'm not complaining. Actually, the cleanliness could be attributed to the fact that most students are lazy to walk the distance (to use them)." - Wong Gah Junn, 14, Salak South

"Some students have turned the school toilets into a smoking-den. I normally hate the smell of cigarettes but in this case the cigarette smell helps reduce the pungent and acrid smell in the toilets. Also, the toilet bowls don't flush and one tap out of three has no running water. I wonder if the teachers would do something if their own toilets were in such condition?
- Devan Kumar, 15, Petaling Jaya.

"I can't recognise myself in the fungus-covered mirror.(We have pathetic excuses for doors). Excrement can be found all over the toilet except where it is supposed to be.

"You can blame this on the teachers' tidak apa attitude. We should just lock the teachers in the students' toilets so they can see what a miserable condition they are in and finally do something about it." - K. Viswanathan, 16, Johor Bahru.

"It's so difficult to do your ablution in a dirty toilet just before you pray. Clean toilets are a necessity for the comfort, esteem and morale of students. A conducive environment goes far in cultivating well-mannered students and citizens of the country." - Nur Aalia Shazana, 15, Petaling Jaya

"My teachers devised an ingenious solution for settling students' toilet woes. When we need to go to the loo, we leave our name tags at the staff room to collect a pass and keys. This prevents students from using it as an excuse to skip class. Also, if there's a mess, we'd know who did it." - Mutiara Bahir 16, Kuantan

"When an important delegation visits my school, they are always taken to the teachers' toilets instead of the students'. I am sure if they were to visit the students' toilet, they would be having nightmares for a month.' - Mohd. Markus, 19, Kuala Lumpur

"At my school, students have to buy a coupon to use the toilet. Each coupon is valid for 10 toilet entries during classes.
My now ex-headmaster once even locked the toilets of the newly-built blocks and made all the students use the old ones. The reason: to keep them clean for visitors." - Hakim Abdullah, 17, Kuala Lumpur

"The discipline teachers in my school are pure evil! We have a school rule that makes us take off our shoes before entering the toilets.

That would be fine if the toilets were clean and smelt like roses. But the floor is always wet and there is a horrible stench that leaves a weird taste in your mouth even long after you have left it. If I closed my eyes, I might think I was in a rubbish dump." - Chong Huei Ping, 18, Pontian

"'Emergency' or not, we aren't allowed to go to the washroom during classes. In my school we are restricted to using the washroom only during the 20-minute recess. And we have a seven-hour school day!

"One morning the principal woke up and decided to convert the girls' toilets into the boys' toilets and vice versa. Now the girls' toilet has urinals!" - S. Ismail, 15, Johor Baru

"Once, some students threw a home-made 'bomb' of firecrackers into a toilet. The explosion cracked the toilet bowl and water spilled all over the floor.

"The toilet walls are very 'artistic' with graffiti and scribbling. If it's white-washed in the morning, by afternoon there'll be new 'wallpaper'". - Edmond Wee, 19, Petaling Jaya

"The toilets in my school are like the realm of darkness. Rumour has it that masturbation and other weird activities go on inside. As for me, I stay away from it as best as possible including controlling nature's call.

"If the toilets are so dirty that a student would rather hold back a diarrhoea attack than go there, what's the point of spending money beautifying the school compound?" - David Ching, 14, Johor Baru

"Many students act as though toilet cleanliness in school is none of their business since they don't live there. For us boarding school students, we have to wash the toilets during weekends. As such, we feel obligated to at least keep it in bearable condition," - Sara Abdul Karim, 17, Perlis

"All this while, toilet-cleaning has been used as a punishment for late-comers but this hasn't taught us to be clean. The toilets are still dirty simply because there aren't enough toilets and the existing ones are in bad shape. - Sharminee Devi Ravichandar, 16, Taman Petaling

"I've heard of schools that make rule-breakers run around the field many times during recess or duck-walk back and forth across the basketball court. This is ridiculous as well as ineffective. They should be punished by washing toilets at designated times." - Eko Talang, 19, KL

"I think it's necessary that school administrators and parent-teacher associations fork out money to built toilets in every school block. An ideal scenario would be at least 10 cubicles in each toilet, with proper tiles, sufficient toilet paper, and slip-free mats for safety and hygiene. Oh, and shower facilities would be ideal since we have physical education classes as well as for students who stay back in school." - Caleb Noel, 17, Johor