THE poor state of toilets in many of Brunei's schools is jeopardising the health of the students, with urinary tract infection topping the list of common illness among them, a senior education officer said yesterday.
Hjh Jamilah Hj Mohd Ali from the Ministry of Education's Department of Schools, said the department's Health Promotion Unit has made visits to about 180 schools, where the toilets were found to be in need of upgrade.
"The findings are that these toilets are not only dirty but also need to be upgraded," she told The Brunei Times on the sidelines of the Awareness Programme on Hygiene and Safety of Toilets in Schools and Colleges at Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah School.
Hjh Jamilah said many of these toilets' pipes, doors, flush or lamps are broken while others had clogged sinks, mainholes and toilets.
"The sinks cannot be used if they are blocked. The same with mainholes and drainage systems," she said. The group also deplored the lack of or even absence of toilet papers or liquid soaps in the toilets.
She added that the poor state of toilets would have health consequences on students. While no specific figures were available, the senior education officer said that urinary tract infection is common among students.
"When the toilet is dirty or has no water...people are not going to use it. Students have to (hold it in) because they know the toilet is not working properly. They have to wait until they return home and (holding it in) can cause infection," she said.
She said additional health risks included chronic kidney damage, constipation, outbreak of E coli, failing to drink water and negative psychological effects, among others.
When asked for the main reason leading to the sub-par quality of school toilets, Hjh Jamilah said that toilet cleaners lacked the skills and know-how to carry out their tasks effectively. "The cleaners are not well-trained. They should be given guidelines on how to make the most out of their equipment properly," she said.
"They need to have more knowledge and skills on knowing the areas and spots that has to be cleaned more with the right detergent and items," she added.
She went on to say that even though suppliers might provide schools with the necessary equipment and cleaning chemicals, the lack of guidelines meant that there could be confusion on how to use or store such chemicals.
With this in mind, Hjh Jamilah said that a guideline was already being prepared.
She explained they were targeting a series of four workshops throughout the year, which would allow for the introduction of such a guideline once it has been completed.
"After implementing the guideline, we will introduce a policy where schools should follow what is stated in it," she said.
A toilet cleaning demonstration was also provided for some 200 participants, which comprises school leaders, teachers, parents, cleaners and students, to enhance their knowledge on what should be the areas of focus when cleaning toilets.
The two-day awareness programme was the Ministry of Education's initiative to raise awareness and foster the habit of cleanliness, health and safety in schools. It aims to stress the importance of clean, comfortable and safe toilets.