Dannielle Miller was reading about a young person in despair who had harmed themselves in their school toilet when she decided something needed to be done.
Could contact numbers on the toilet door for Kids Helpline, or an inspiring quote that spoke of hope, make a difference to kids in a desperate situation like this at school?
Miller, the CEO of Enlighten Education, went on to write a 12000-word research paper on the topic and discovered there is an urgent need to reimagine school toilets.
The School Toilet Project, an initiative to improve school toilets around Australia, is what came next.
The paper shares a number of existing research finding on school toilets, which support the need for reform, including:
- Sub-standard toilets and inadequate cleaning schedules, make children feel they are not valued at school
- Poor sanitation and restricted access are creating health problems
- The poor condition of school toilets is deterring children from drinking enough water during the day (to avoid having to urinate). The associated dehydration is impacting on concentration and learning.
- School toilets are often used as a site for hiding out, crying, self-harm and suicide
- A lack of privacy in school toilets is associated with misbehaviour
The School Toilet Project is not-for-profit and has been supported by the NSW Department of Education to trial a pilot project at a north-west Sydney public high school, Cheltenham Girls.
A group of eighteen girls from the school have self-nominated to be on the design committee to reimagine their school toilets and bring a vision of hope and safety into reality.
Miller said it is important for school toilets to feel welcoming and nurturing.
“We decorate our school counsellors’ offices in ways which we know will help elevate mood, yet we give no consideration to the one place we know upset students naturally gravitate to – the school toilets. At the moment, most school toilets are either sterile, or covered in filth,” she said.
“Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you that whenever they go into the school bathrooms, they find at least one child crying in there, or being comforted by friends.”
Miller believes the project is a world first and, since launching over the weekend, she’s already shared on her Facebook page other schools that are interested in the initiative.
Watch this space for the unveiling of Cheltenham’s newly designed toilets.