School competition "Toiletten machen Schule" - Awareness raising story from Germany

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Award ceremony with the winning schools in Berlin

Country: Germany

A contest inspires students and schools to come up with their own ideas for improving their sanitation facilities

Basic data:

The German Toilet Organization (GTO) launched a competition named “Toiletten machen Schule” (“Toilets making the grade”) in November 2012. Its aim was to encourage schools with its students to imagine an idea that makes school toilets a "better" and comfortable place. GTO supported the schools by providing an inspirational package on how best to structure the process and plan activities accordingly. Finally, seventy-nine schools from all over Germany was active in this awareness raising project.

The project and the experiences:

The taboo around the topic of sanitation persists around the world. In Germany, for example, the school toilet is often perceived as a dirty, smelly and an uncomfortable place. A survey among students in Berlin revealed that an alarming 75% of the interviewed students avoid using their school sanitation facilities and even try to drink less in order to avoid going to the toilet. In many schools the facilities are not functioning properly, and there is often a lack of sufficient toilet paper, soap, brushes or dustbins. In addition there is often neglect and little appreciation for school restrooms, and many schools face problems with vandalism and graffiti.

To address these problems, the German Toilet Organization (GTO) launched a competition named “Toiletten machen Schule” (“Toilets making the grade”) in November 2012. The competition was intended to break this taboo, create ownership and provide interested schools with a helpful tool to raise awareness and initiate a dialogue among all involved stakeholders on how the existing situation can be improved. GTO supported the schools by providing an inspirational package on how best to structure the process and plan activities accordingly. All relevant stakeholders including students, teachers, school management, facility managers, parents committees and cleaning staff were asked to jointly assess and honestly reflect on the current sanitation situation in their schools and suggest ideas for improvement. As an incentive for the schools to actively engage in the process, a full renovation of a boys and girls toilet block was offered as a prize for the winning schools. The prizes were offered through the support of corporate partners from the sanitation and service sector in Germany.

Art project in one of the participating schools.

Seventy-nine schools from all over Germany participated in the contest, and all developed interesting concepts for improvement of their school’s sanitation situation. The winning school was a primary school in Wellesweiler, Saarland, where the team members set up a “toilet committee”, consisting of students, teachers and the facility manager. Together the members of the committee came up with many ideas for improvement and will keep track of whether each person is taking care of the tasks he or she volunteered for. Furthermore, the topic of sanitation is now included in the school curriculum so that students learn about proper hygiene, sanitation, and water conservation.

Another winning school came up with the idea of a “Toilet-coin”. The parents were asked to voluntarily contribute 1€ ($1.35) each month, and the collected funds were used to hire a “sanitation coach”. The coach works with the students to keep the facilities clean, comfortable and pleasant to visit. The students also worked with an artist to further decorate the washrooms. This school also intends to cooperate with parents who work in relevant trades and who are able to donate time and materials to take care of smaller repairs.

A school from Berlin convinced the jury with their “Adopt a toilet” idea, where students take direct responsibility for a specific toilet during their time at school. This idea helps increase personal commitment to the upkeep of the school’s sanitation facilities. The project concept was developed in cooperation with Dr. Tom Keating of Project CLEAN (Cleaners, Learners and Educators Against Neglect), who has been working to improve school restrooms in the United States for more than 20 years.

The key lessons of the story

Inauguration ceremony of the new school facilities

It is generally useful to organize such kind of competition, where "only" the main aim is given, thus the students are enough free to imagine great and successful ideas to solve the given problem. In this competition it was a perfect solution, as well, that the schools had to give its own resources (e.g. time, money) into the implementation, so the participants were more committed to the project.

Contribution to the SuSanA sustainability criteria

Technically Appropriate, Including O&M: a contest inspires many creative ideas for engaging students and parents in the upkeep of their own toilets and washrooms.

Promote health and hygiene effectively: the topic of sanitation is included in the school curriculum, so students learn about proper hygiene, sanitation, and water conservation.

Project details

Project begin: 2012

Project location: whole Germany

Executing institution and funder: German Toilet Organization

Project partners: WECF, CLEAN

The German Toilet Organization is an NGO situated in berlin. Since 2005, they have worked internationally in the field of sustainable sanitation. as part of its work gto offers workshops in schools to improve their sanitation situation and to raise awareness about the global crisis.

WECF (Women in Europe for a Common Future) is a non-governmental organization established in 1994 following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, to give women a stronger voice in the field of sustainable development and environment. WECF strives for balancing the environment, health and economy, taking the different needs and perspectives of women and men into account and implements solutions locally and influences policy internationally.

Germany toilet org.jpg


Robert Gensch

German Toilet Organization