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Hygiene and cleanliness of public school toilets to improve | 19 March 2020

Hygiene and cleanliness of public school toilets to improve

Participants listening to a presentation during the session yesterday (Photos: Thomas Meriton)

Cleaning standards for school toilets, hand-washing and drying facilities as well as drinking water supplies are but some of the issues addressed yesterday, during a brief training session for cleaning agencies and housekeepers providing the service to public schools.

Organised by the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD) as part of its Sanitation Programme, the training couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, with schools being closed for a two-week period as a precautionary measure against the COVID-19 pandemic and as institutions implement practical control measures against the spread of the infection.

Health promotion coordinator of MEHRD, Brigitte Labonte, noted that the universal standards should apply at all times to limit absenteeism, limit illnesses in children caused by poor sanitary conditions and prevent outbreaks of infectious disease, and it is for that reason that it is an essential element of the ministry’s prevention plan, drawn up prior to the closing of schools.

“Studies on toilet facilities indicate that children are reluctant to use toilets because of poor sanitary conditions, which can cause or exacerbate health problems in children. The rate of infection across pupils is quite high, with children suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting. Cleaning is a trade and through toilet facilities, it becomes evident which schools care about their pupils,” Ms Labonte said.

While she acknowledged that facilities in public schools are limited as compared to schools in the United Kingdom (UK), for which the standards are compiled, Ms Labonte emphasised its adaptability to the local context.

She advised that toilets should be clean, in good repair and monitored regularly and that an audit checklist should be located in the toilets and signed at regular intervals throughout the day.

Furthermore, she noted that all toilet areas should have hand washing facilities including water, soap and towels.

Currently, pupils are advised to bring their own toilet paper and soap but the ministry is working on a programme to make such available at all schools as well as an educational campaign to sensitise pupils about proper use of the facilities, so as to avoid misuse as has been the case in previous years.

Ms Labonte further proposed that toilet facilities should be cleaned at least twice or three times per school day, most importantly during peak periods of use, and deep-cleaning at least thrice annually, during school holidays.

She also addressed decontamination procedures, cleaning in the school environment, providing guidelines on how to properly store and handle chemicals used for cleaning, before concluding with a protocol for cleaning.

In addition to the good practice guide on cleaning of school toilets, the COVID-19 pandemic was also on the agenda. Manager of the health promotion unit, Georges Madeleine, and senior medical officer Dr Sanjeev Pugazhendi, both from the Ministry of Health, informed attendees about the virus, personal precautions, advisory guidelines and practical steps to adopt in the workplace to reduce the risks of catching the infection and prevent it from spreading.

Representatives of the cleaning agencies were then invited to ask questions and were each given a detailed copy of the standards.

 

Laura Pillay

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