HCM City — Poor hygiene of school toilets has been a long-standing issue for students.
Sài Gòn Giải Phóng (Liberated Sài Gòn) Newspaper recently conducted a quick survey of 50 elementary school students in HCM City, asking the question “which part of the school is most impressive to you (either negative or positive)?” Two-thirds of the students chose the toilets.
Meanwhile, toilets have seen fewer upgrades and lower levels of investments, the paper reported.
Đặng Thị Thu Nguyệt’s two sons, students in Hóc Môn District, avoided using their school’s toilets altogether because they were so dirty.
“Whenever I picked them up at school, they asked me to drive home as fast as possible so they could use the toilet,” Nguyệt told giadinh.net. “They were afraid to use the school toilets.”
Her sons said the toilets did not have clean water or toilet paper.
Tuyên, the father of a student in a secondary school in District 12, told the paper the school had over 1,000 students but very few toilets. The working toilets were always dirty and wet.
In a recent seminar on implementing the “Clean School” Project for the 2018-2019 school year held by the HMC City Education and Training Department, most schools were hesitant to pay VNĐ68 million (US$3,000) per year for a toilet cleaning service package offered by a private company.
“Every year, our school receives some financial aid, but parents want us to invest in upgrading our classrooms and installing equipment to support foreign language study,” said the vice principal of a primary school in District 3.
“So, we have to wait for the district’s People’s Committee to approve funds for upgrading toilets and playgrounds,” she said.
Sharing the same opinion, a representative of a primary school in District 5 said securing approval took a long time, but the daily demands of students could not wait.
Raising funds from parents was difficult, especially for schools in rural areas.
Phan Thúy Trang, principal of An Hội Primary School in Gò Vấp District, said, “The average income of parents here is not much, so financial contributions are modest. Some contributions were only dozens of thousands of đồng (about 50 US cents), but that was all many families could afford.”
The principal said it was not necessary to buy the pricey cleaning package. Schools should do cleaning and maintenance by themselves to save money.
In fact, many primary schools in the city have kept toilets clean by providing sufficient toilet paper or hand dryers to make students more comfortable.
Toilets in these schools no longer scared students, the paper reported.
“Small things make students feel comfortable and help enhance their studying abilities,” said Huynh Thanh Phú, principal of Nguyễn Du Secondary School in District 10.
However, some schools have seen their student populations steadily increase, making it harder to keep toilets clean and useable.
For example, Nguyễn Du Secondary School’s 16 toilets were cleaned by just six staff members.
The principal also said keeping toilets clean depends on student behaviour.
“Apart from investing in facilities, schools need to increase awareness among students, the direct users,” said Phạm Ngọc Thanh, former director of HCM City’s Education and Training Department.
“If toilets are cleaned well but students are unaware of their use, bad smells and wetness would still occur,” he said.
Since the early days of the 2018-2019 school year, the Ministry of Education and Training has asked education and training departments nationwide to upgrade toilets and supply clean water in schools.
HMC City’s department had required districts’ People’s committees to provide funds to repair broken toilets and build new ones to serve the increased numbers of students. — VNS