KUALA LUMPUR: SM St Michael Penampang is 120 years old and its toilets were in such a poor state that the students preferred not to use them.
In 2007, Marie Yong Pik Hun took over as headmistress and transformed the run-down school in the small town of Penampang, Sabah, into a nationally-recognised “Sekolah Lestari”.
“The students like using the washrooms in the school now, which are equipped with new toilet facilities, shower rooms and hair dryers.
“They have even taken it upon themselves to ensure that the toilets are always clean and in good condition,” said 58-year-old Yong, who is fondly known among students as “Grandma”.
Yesterday, the school won the top award in the Housing and Local Government’s National-level Clean Toilets Competition 2012 for having the cleanest toilets among secondary schools and took home RM3,000 in cash, as well as a plaque and certificate.
Yong said it had taken motivation and training to make the students realise that the upkeep of the school was their collective responsibility.
“Many of our students come from rural areas and some of them do not even know how to use a toilet properly.”
Yong, who said that this was the first competition the school had won for having clean toilets, added that the school had also adopted a more eco-friendly approach by recycling, for example, collecting rainwater to clean the toilets.
She said the transformation had created a more conducive environment suited for studying and it had improved the school’s overall academic performance.
In presenting the awards for clean toilets in nine categories including Tourist Attraction Areas, Restaurants and Public Rest-stops, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Chor Chee Heung said a cleanliness audit had been conducted on 19,338 toilets nationwide.
Out of these, he said, 69% were graded three stars and more, showing a 21% improvement compared to last year.
Chor said the ministry would be introducing a Clean Toilets Action Plan next year, which would focus on maintenance, facilities and design of public toilets.
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