I go to Buntong Clinic monthly to collect medicine. One morning when I was waiting for my turn, I walked around the waiting hall and noticed there were a number of pamphlets stacked at a corner of the hall. The access to the place was partially blocked. There were pamphlets on different health issues. I picked up one titled, “Gunakan TANDAS dengan cara yang betul” (Use toilet the right way). The pamphlet was published by the Health Ministry. During our Editorial Meeting at Ipoh Echo, I showed the pamphlet to the attendees but no one had seen this pamphlet before.
On the internet I came across a website “The Travel Manual” by a group of South Africans who ranked Malaysia as having the world’s worst toilets and gave justifications for it.
Other than publishing pamphlets which are not widely circulated, I am not sure whether the Health Ministry conducts any public awareness programmes on how to use toilets the right way. Pamphlets alone would not make a difference. Firstly, officials of the ministry must go to schools and kindergartens and explain to students why they must keep toilets clean. We should start teaching kids early. The toilets in schools and kindergartens must be inspected. This cannot be done by the ministry alone, PTAs and NGOs must be involved. Schools must set up a committee consisting of teachers, students and representatives from PTA to look after the cleanliness of toilets.
In Japan students are made to clean their schools including toilets; which are generally clean. Malaysian parents may not agree to this.
Toilet training starts at home and the Ministry must also conduct programmes for members of PTAs. We cannot assume that all parents know about cleanliness and hygiene. Children must be taught to keep the toilet clean after answering the call of nature.
Malaysians love shopping and take their families for outings to hypermarkets. The ministry can work with hypermarkets and ask them to start a campaign “Keep public toilets clean” as one of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes. This would reach a large section of the public. Hypermarkets can initiate campaign on keeping toilets in their premises clean. The cleaners of public toilets must be trained how to do their jobs.
Cameras must be installed at the entrance of toilets. This would make people aware that they are being watched and will automatically behave. Malaysians behave when they know that they are being watched.
There are many annual commemorative days such as Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. How many of us know that among all the days there is one called “World Toilet Day”? It falls on November 19. It is aimed at solving the global sanitation crisis which affects more than 4.5 billion people all over the world. This day must be publicised and public functions held.
Malaysians marvel at the clean toilets when travelling abroad. We aspire to become a First World nation, but our toilets are still stuck in a Third World setting.
Our Public Toilets are a Reflection of our Country’s Image