Chennai: At Panchayat Union Middle School, Kurumbapatty, a persistent stench invaded the classrooms every day. Students felt this to be the cause behind the many symptoms of fever, nausea, and stomachache that prompted students to take leave from school.
At first, they imagined that the problem would diminish if they bathed daily using soap, wore clean clothes, and kept their hair clean. But inspired by the simple 4-step formula of Feel-Imagine-Do-Share that has been developed by Design for Change – a not-for-profit organisation that challenges children to solve problems in their community – the students decided to actively investigate the matter.
They set up a five-member committee – comprising 13-year-olds Supikpandian, Santhosh, Dhiyanithi, Ragul, and Prabaharan – to identify the cause of the stench, and came to realise that the source of the problem was actually the school toilet. Being an ill-equipped toilet, the boys would have to urinate on the floor, causing their sandals and feet to be sprinkled by drops of urine. This transported the stench into the classrooms. Coupled with the toilet’s faulty drainage system, the issue was a cause for urinary infections.As the cost of installing urinals was high, the boys came up with an imaginative solution. While drinking water from an upside down 20 litre plastic bottle, one of the boys imagined that the bottle resembled a urinal. Taking this thought further, under the mentorship of Kesavan D, the boys decided to cut the bottles longitudinally to generate urinals. To procure the bottles, they approached a seller.
Then came the task of setting up the toilet. Using funds collected from the students and teachers, the students purchased other necessary pipes and parts. First, they re-painted the walls of the toilet in a brighter green, and then they set up the drainage system in such a way that urine could easily exit through pipes connected to the necks of the bottles.
Low-cost, lightweight, and durable, the students imagine this product – which they call a ‘Safe Mode Pissing System’ – to be a scalable solution, easily implementable in places that have poor infrastructure. They have gone from school to school, creating awareness about problems that come with unsanitary toilets, and demonstrating how to implement the urinals. About the potential impact of their project, they say.