Effects of Dirty Toilets in Schools

Effects of Dirty Toilets in Schools

In a world where education is the key to the future, the state of school toilets tells a story far beyond cleanliness, directly affecting the health, education, and future prospects of millions of students globally.

Beyond Cleanliness: Exploring the Broad Impact of Sanitation on Health, Learning, and Well-Being

Sanitation extends its influence beyond the confines of cleanliness, shaping health, academic achievement, and the holistic well-being of students.

Inadequate toilet facilities pose a critical challenge, especially in rural and developing areas, directly impacting educational access and quality.

The presence of clean, accessible toilets is fundamentally linked to reducing disease, boosting school attendance, and enhancing cognitive development among students.

This situation calls for an urgent and focused response to transform school environments into spaces that support, rather than hinder, every student's potential for success.


The Health Impact of Sanitation

Access to clean and functional sanitation facilities is a cornerstone of public health; it significantly reduces the prevalence of sanitation-related illnesses.

In communities where these facilities are readily available and maintained, the rates of diseases commonly transmitted through unsanitary conditions decrease.

Lowering Illness Rates

The relationship between sanitation and health is evident in the reduction of waterborne and fecal-oral transmitted diseases, such as diarrhea, which remains a leading cause of mortality among young children in low-income settings.

Sanitation facilities that effectively manage human waste protect water sources from contamination, breaking the disease cycle.

This is not just about having toilets but ensuring that they are part of a broader waste management system that includes safe collection, transport, and treatment, ultimately leading to healthier communities.

Reducing Disease Prevalence

Improved sanitation also plays a pivotal role in controlling the spread of infections like trachoma, a bacterial eye infection that can lead to blindness.

The infection is spread through direct contact with eye or nose discharges from infected individuals or indirect contact with contaminated objects, including towels and clothes.

Here, the emphasis on hygiene, facilitated by adequate sanitation facilities, is crucial.

Access to sanitation encourages regular handwashing and personal hygiene practices that interrupt trachoma transmission and similar infections.

Moreover, many parasitic infections, including those caused by intestinal worms, are less prevalent in areas with adequate sanitation.

These parasites thrive in environments contaminated by feces, where they can easily be ingested or come into contact with the skin of their hosts.

By reducing exposure to these parasites, sanitation facilities contribute to fewer infections and an overall improvement in community health.


Sanitation's Influence on Cognitive Development and Education

  • Increased Cognitive Development: Study findings reveal that access to proper sanitation facilities correlates with improved cognitive abilities in children. The absence of sanitation-related illnesses allows children to utilize their full potential, enhancing learning outcomes.
  • Higher Attendance Rates: Research indicates adequate sanitation facilities significantly boost school attendance rates. The comfort and safety provided by clean and accessible toilets encourage regular school attendance.
  • Impact on Attendance for Postmenarcheal Girls: The availability of sanitary facilities plays a crucial role in the attendance rates of postmenarcheal girls. Inadequate facilities can lead to missed school days during menstruation, affecting girls' educational progress.
  • Empowering Girls Through Improved Sanitation: Implementing gender-specific sanitation solutions, such as providing sanitary pad dispensers and private changing areas, can empower girls, making them feel safe and supported to attend school even during menstruation.


Addressing the Issue: Theoretical Frameworks and Practical Solutions

Addressing the complex issue of sanitation in schools requires a multifaceted approach, integrating theoretical understanding and practical solutions.

Theoretical Frameworks

The multifactorial impact of inadequate sanitation on student behavior and learning can be understood through the lens of the Ecological Systems Theory.

This theory posits that a child's development is influenced by the various systems of their environment, interacting with each other in complex ways.

Poor sanitation, situated in the physical environment of a school (the microsystem), can negatively affect a student's health, attendance, and engagement, thereby influencing their overall learning and development.

This situation underscores the importance of a supportive school environment in the broader ecosystem affecting student outcomes.

Another relevant framework is the Theory of Planned Behavior, which suggests that an individual's behavior is directly influenced by their intention to perform that behavior, which is affected by their attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control.

In the context of sanitation, this theory helps explain how the lack of clean and safe facilities can impact students' attitudes towards school attendance and engagement, particularly among postmenarcheal girls who face additional challenges related to menstrual hygiene.

Practical Solutions

To effectively address the challenges posed by inadequate sanitation facilities in schools, a comprehensive approach that encompasses the following strategies is essential:

  • Infrastructure Improvement: Build clean, accessible, and well-maintained toilet facilities. This includes ensuring sufficient toilets per student, as recommended by international health organizations, to prevent overcrowding and long wait times.
  • Gender-Segregated Facilities: Provide separate sanitation facilities for boys and girls and private and hygienic spaces for menstrual hygiene management. This addresses concerns about privacy and dignity and encourages regular attendance among girls.
  • Behavioral Change Campaigns: Implement educational programs that promote good hygiene practices among students, such as regular handwashing with soap. These campaigns can change perceptions and behaviors around sanitation and hygiene, fostering a culture of cleanliness within the school community.
  • Community and Stakeholder Engagement: Involve parents, teachers, and local communities in discussing sanitation planning and maintenance decisions. This collective approach can enhance the sustainability of sanitation initiatives and ensure they are tailored to the student population's specific needs and cultural contexts.
  • Policy and Funding: Advocate for increased policy focus and funding allocations for school sanitation from government and non-governmental organizations. Sustainable financing models can support the construction and ongoing maintenance of facilities, ensuring long-term improvements in sanitation.



  • Sclar, G. D., Garn, J. V., Penakalapati, G., Alexander, K. T., Krauss, J., Freeman, M. C., Boisson, S., Medlicott, K. O., & Clasen, T. (2017). Effects of sanitation on cognitive development and school absence: A systematic review. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 220(6), 917–927. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijheh.2017.06.010
  • ‌Niroula, I. (2021). Situation of Toilet Sanitation and it’s Effect in community school Students. Elibrary.tucl.edu.np. https://elibrary.tucl.edu.np/handle/123456789/9565
  • ‌Caruso, B. A., Freeman, M. C., Garn, J. V., Dreibelbis, R., Saboori, S., Muga, R., & Rheingans, R. (2014). Assessing the impact of a school-based latrine cleaning and handwashing program on pupil absence in Nyanza Province, Kenya: a cluster-randomized trial. Tropical Medicine & International Health, 19(10), 1185–1197. https://doi.org/10.1111/tmi.12360
  • ‌Shao, T., Zhao, J., Hu, H., & Zhang, Q. (2021). Analysis of factors affecting students going to school toilets in a rural primary school in China. BMC Public Health, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-10099-4
  • ‌Shkalim Zemer, V., Cohen, H. A., Richenberg, Y., Gerstein, M., Atias, I., Gur, S., Laks, Y., Levinsky, Y., Dvir, O., Brown, I., Cohen, M., & Ben Meir, D. (2023). Personal hygiene, environmental conditions, and toilet use of children in primary schools: A cohort study. Journal of Pediatric Urology, 19(6), 721-727. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpurol.2023.06.004
  • KOOPMAN, J. S. (1978). DIARRHEA AND SCHOOL TOILET HYGIENE IN CALI, COLOMBIA. American Journal of Epidemiology, 107(5), 412-420. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.aje.a112559



The journey towards improved school sanitation is multifaceted, involving the integration of theoretical frameworks with practical, actionable solutions.

The path forward requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach, from leveraging the Ecological Systems Theory to understand the environmental impacts on student behavior to implementing strategies that ensure the availability of clean and gender-sensitive facilities.

Engaging communities, educators, policymakers, and students in these efforts is paramount in creating sustainable changes that resonate with each school's needs and cultural contexts.

The global challenge of inadequate school sanitation facilities calls for a united response.

It invites us to reflect on sanitation's interconnectedness with broader educational and health outcomes and act with urgency and empathy.

By advocating for improved sanitation facilities, supporting initiatives to enhance hygiene practices in schools, and fostering a culture of cleanliness and well-being, we contribute to a world where every child can learn and thrive in a safe and healthy environment.

If you would like more information regarding the effectiveness of high-performance infection prevention and control measures, or if you would like to schedule a free, no-obligation on-site assessment of your facility's custodial needs, contact us today for a free quote!

In Bakersfield, CA, call (661) 437-3253

In Fresno, CA, call (559) 206-1059

In Valencia, CA, or Santa Clarita, CA, call (661) 437-3253

In Palmdale, CA, or Lancaster, CA, call (661) 371-4756

Vanguard Cleaning Systems of the Southern Valley

Vanguard Cleaning Systems of the Southern Valley