Students across Vietnam dread using school toilets due to a severe shortage of such facilities, with the Ministry of Education and Training reporting some schools are only able to offer one restroom to every 210 students.
In some localities, particularly in Vietnam’s northern mountainous region, the construction of restrooms relies solely on charity and private funding, leading to a dearth of toilets in educational facilities.
Hanoi: too few for too many
At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, which started earlier this month, Hanoi was home to over 2,800 schools and more than 2.2 million students.
“During rush hours, especially during five-minute break times, all the stalls are occupied,” said the parent of a child enrolled at a school in Van Chuong Ward, Dong Da District, Hanoi.
“My child usually doesn’t have time to wait for their turn to use the toilet.”
An educational facility should house one urinal, one toilet, and one sink for every 30 boys or 20 girls, according to Vietnamese standards.
Despite such standards, many schools in Hanoi feature only one male restroom and one female restroom on each floor.
Unfortunately, a typical floor in a Hanoi-based school is home to ten classrooms with 50-55 students each.
This pales in comparison to other localities, where some schools admit 1,500-2,000 students but provide only six to seven restrooms.
This averages out at about 210 students per restroom.
Broken, squalid facilities
About 30 percent of school restrooms in Vietnam are substandard and in a state of degradation.
Even in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, only about 80 percent of schools operate with restrooms that meet national standards.
At those schools, having too few restrooms means that the facilities degrade quicker and, unfortunately, there is no budget for maintenance, repair, and regular cleaning.
As a result, broken sinks and toilets are loathed by students across the city.
The few students who are brave enough to relieve themselves at schools are often unable to flush because the toilets are broken and are also unable to wash their hands because there is no soap or tap water.
Some schools only provide squat toilets which use open-air drainage and are consistently overflowing with trash, garbage, and feces.
|A teacher guides a student to a bathroom dedicated to female use during their menstrual periods at Le Dinh Chinh Elementary School in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City, September 7, 2022. Photo: My Dung / Tuoi Tre|
“The biggest worry of parents who have daughters is related to them going to the restroom at school,” a parent told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
“School toilets are dirty and always wet.
"The children loath to use them.
“My child often tries to hold back until she gets home.”
Over the past two years, some districts of Hanoi such as Ha Dong, Thanh Xuan, and Cau Giay have used district funds to hire private services to manage school toilets.
This approach has helped with maintenance, minor repairs, and hygiene, but still fails to solve the issue of overcrowding.
An exemplary situation in Ho Chi Minh City
In Ho Chi Minh City, most school toilets across the metropolis meet requirements, and students are typically not scared of using the restroom, according to the municipal education department.
Le Dinh Chinh Elementary School in District 10, for example, provides students with high quality restrooms.
The 15-year-old school, which accommodates 700 students, has two separate restrooms of 10 toilets and 10 sinks for boys and girls on each floor of its three-story building.
Outside the restrooms, walls are decorated with paintings of animals while the inside facilities are odorless and clean.
“Ever since I began attending this school, I haven’t had to think twice before going to the restroom,” said Bao Ngoc, a fifth grader.
“We also go to the restroom to wash our hands during break times and before and after having lunch.
“None of my friends are afraid of going to the toilet.”
Every year, the school renovates the toilets within its allowed budget, according to the school’s principal Huynh Thi Thao.
Thao also emphasized the importance of daily cleaning and teaching students to keep the toilets clean.
In addition to the common toilets, Le Dinh Chinh Elementary School also built a bathroom exclusively for female students to use during their menstrual periods.
This bathroom was built by converting two teachers’ restrooms.
It includes a changing room and a toilet that are full of natural light.
It is also fully equipped with pads and toilet paper.