Highland students miss school because they’re afraid of toilets

Dien BienGiang Thi Dua, 13 years old, had to miss school for two weeks because she was obsessed with dirty toilets and long waits.

When she went to secondary school, Dua had to attend boarding school because her house was in Nam Po 2 village, 7 km from the school. The first day at the new school, the Mong girl was shocked when she had to wait in line after dozens of friends to go to the bathroom. “Because I was so sad, I risked running to the stream,” Dua said.

The shock of the day is not over, but it is the turn of the night. When night fell, wanting to go to the bathroom, Dua used a flashlight and invited many friends to go with her. One night, the girl had an embarrassing incident. She missed school tomorrow morning and left home.

For two days in a row, the students did not come to class, Ms. Doan Thi Ha, the homeroom teacher of Pineapple’s class, had to go to the village to inquire and encourage her to go back to school. “On the way to school, I asked her why, and she said that the toilet was too dirty and I was afraid to go to school,” Ms. Ha said.

The school only has 20 makeshift restrooms for more than 1000 students. At recess, the children had to wait in line to wait their turn. Image: Minh Tam.

Not only the rugged mountainous terrain or physical difficulties, the lack of toilets and poor quality, in schools in Muong Nhe district are also the reasons why Giang Thi Dua and thousands of other students don’t want to go to school.

Muong Nhe Secondary School for Ethnic Minorities Semi-boarding School has 1,024 students but only 20 toilets for boys and girls. Each room is less than half a meter wide, temporarily built in 2017, placed on a pedestal and surrounded by corrugated iron, which has now deteriorated. At peak hours, such as going out, often overcrowding occurs. To meet the requirements in terms of quantity, not counting the quality as prescribed, the school needs to be invested and built at least 10 new toilets.

Vice Principal Leng Thi Tinh said that to invest in more construction, it still depends on funding from the district, socialization, and benefactors. The school can only mobilize support workers. Because the construction investment budget is still difficult, the school can only try to make small repairs, maintain maintenance, and enhance hygiene to reduce overcrowding and not affect health and the environment.

“Students are too crowded, but the toilets are degraded and there is not enough room for them to go. At recess, they have to wait for a long time,” Ms. Tinh said.

Not only Muong Nhe Secondary School for Ethnic Minorities, a primary school in Huoi Lech Commune has 4 temporary toilets for nearly 500 students.  Photo: Ngoc Thanh.

Not only Muong Nhe Secondary School for Ethnic Minorities, a primary school in Huoi Lech Commune has 4 temporary toilets for nearly 500 students. Image: Ngoc Thanh.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Education and Training, the whole country has 188,000 toilets for students at all levels, from preschool to high school, of which 67% are permanent toilets, the remaining 33% need support. to upgrade and build new.

In the academic year 2022-2023, the Department of Education and Training of Muong Nhe district has 35 affiliated schools. In which, 30 schools belonging to 10 elementary school units and 11 junior high schools still lack toilets or have them but are in disrepair.

“The number of toilets is small, the students are crowded, leading to overcrowding, potential risks of diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, trachoma… affecting the health of students, community, negatively impacting education and child care,” said Mr. Pham Thiet Chuy, Head of Education and Training Department of Muong Nhe district.

Doan Thi Ha said that in September, nearly a dozen sixth graders missed school because they were afraid to go to the toilet. At this age, female students begin to develop psychologically, so they will be very shy in private matters. “The toilet is small, only temporarily covered with corrugated iron, many girls are afraid of male friends passing by,” Ms. Ha said.

There are students who wait too long, do not dare to go to the toilet and pee in class. Being teased by her friends, she cried and dropped out of school. Teachers have to come to my house to mobilize for a whole week before I go back to school.

In elementary schools deep in the village, toilets only temporarily set up a few thin sheets of corrugated iron to be shared by both teachers and students.  Photo: Minh Tam.

In elementary schools deep in the village, toilets only temporarily set up a few thin sheets of corrugated iron to be shared by both teachers and students. Image: Minh Tam.

For the past three years, Lanh Nhu Quynh, class 9D5 just ran home every time she needed to urinate or had a stomachache. Quynh said, the four classes shared a bathroom that was both cramped and dirty, so she was afraid to go.

Students near the house can also find a way to go to the toilet, but with Lo Thu Phuong, who lives in the village, every “month” she asks the teacher to leave school.

“The toilet is degraded, not clean, sometimes there is no water, no soap, no private place. Therefore, I do not dare to change tampons, have to ask for leave. If you do not dare to take a break, I sat in class all day, waiting for my friend to come back, “Thu Phuong said.

Going to the forest is the way that Vang Thi Di, class 8C3 solves it when she needs to urinate but waits too long. Di also took a week off school in 7th grade when he couldn’t stand going to the toilet at school.

“The toilet is dirty, the smell is so strong I can’t stand it. The room is only covered with corrugated iron and has a few holes, it’s not tight, the male friends who go outside can see inside, so I don’t dare to go,” she said. 13 year old boy said.

Just Thi Chi, class 6A2 cried many times because the toilet was too dirty. Chi said, the place to pee, you defecate straight, throw the paper indiscriminately, sometimes forgetting to flush the water looks terrible.

“You guys use sticks and leaves to clog the toilet. The smell is really terrible. Every time I want to go, I ask the teacher to run to my classmate’s house. I don’t dare to go to the toilet at school, it’s very smelly”, Chi said. lament.

When the back-to-school season came, Ms. Tinh had a headache when she received 4-5 phone calls a day from people about the problem of smelly toilets. Ms. Tinh sometimes panics and does not dare to answer the phone. Times of dehydration lead to interrupted defecation. The number of students was too large, the dirty toilets kept happening.

“I just hope that the benefactors will support more quality toilets so that teachers and students can help,” said the Vice-Principal.


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