No more bog-standard toilets

Otumoetai College head students Becky Dougherty, Redemption Te Wiki, Saskia Brinkmann and Thomas Chaney are looking forward to new, modern toilets by the end of the year.

No more foggy, cracked mirrors, and no more dark and dingy cubicles that encourage unsightly graffiti.

Otumoetai College students will be toileting in relative luxury later this year after pleading their case for better facilities to the principal and board of trustees.

The school held its annual community workday recently, with funds raised this year going towards an upgrade of the student toilet facilities.

Head students Redemption Te Wiki, Saskia Brinkmann, Thomas Chaney and Becky Dougherty say while their current toilets are practical, they could definitely do with an upgrade.

“They serve their purpose, but we’re continually working to upgrade various aspects of the school,” says Becky. “The general consensus was that we wanted the toilets to be next in line,” says Thomas.

The group agree it was “awesome” to have the opportunity to decide how the funds from the workday would be spent this year.

“Usually the funds are put towards something big, like the gym or new school vans, but this year it will be spent on something we all use,” says Saskia.

“The toilets are considered the dirtiest place in the school, and when you go in there and find them not looking their best, you’re less inclined to want to use them. An upgrade would definitely make the students feel more comfortable.”

The students’ wish list includes better lighting and mirrors, more efficient hand dryers, cubicle doors that lock properly and hooks on the back of doors to keep bags off the floor.

They also believe modern facilities will deter the unsightly graffiti and vandalism commonly found in school toilets.

Principal Russell Gordon says use of the workday fundraising is usually determined by the board of trustees or the senior leadership team. However, this year the decision was put in the hands of the students.

“The toilets as they are, are absolutely functional,” says Russell. “If you walked into a public toilet you would probably have a similar experience as to what our kids would have in their school toileting experience.

“That being said, some kids don’t particularly like them and they have asked if we could upgrade them beyond the standard we currently have.”

The toilet upgrade is likely to be along similar lines to those found in commercial shopping malls.

“We’re not talking five-star, but we’ll get some designers to come in to provide alternatives, we’ll get students to vote on that and we’ll look to have them finished by the end of the year,” says Russell.

The school currently has four blocks of student toilets and plans to spend around $30,000 per block on the upgrade. Two will be designated for girls, one for boys and one will be a unisex block.

The students raised between $20-30,000 from the workday, and the board of trustees will come up with the $100,000 shortfall.

Russell says some students choose not to use the toilets at all during the school day and that affects their learning.

“What that tells me is they won’t be drinking enough water and, as a result, by mid-afternoon will be becoming lethargic. That, to me, affects their learning. If we can create an environment where kids are happy to use the toilets, we’re ultimately impacting and improving their learning experience.”

Cleanliness of bathrooms was one of the physical elements of the school environment highlighted by young people as having a significant impact on their experience of school in a recently online survey and face-to-face interviews of New Zealand children and young people by the Ministry of Education.

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