Students should clean our schools

July 30, 2018
Students should clean our schools
Ahmed Al-Helali

Makkah newspaper

BEFORE writing this article, I transmitted a message through my Twitter and Facebook accounts decrying the pathetic situation of our streets and public institutions and facilities, which are being damaged and disfigured by youngsters in our community.

The message drew varying responses as some blamed the worsening situation on the family for not bringing up their children properly while others said it was the duty of schools to teach youngsters good manners. Some others even blamed it on a lack of role models for youngsters to follow.

The issue deserves deep attention by experts to find a viable solution. The above responses will not be enough to address this pressing problem in this modern age.

If our social activists had taken pictures of the damage caused by youngsters to our schools, streets, buildings, walls, universities, mosques, parks and restaurants we could have understood the tragic situation and the heavy losses it causes every year.

The government spends millions of riyals every year on replacement of furniture, maintenance and painting. The most disturbing fact is that this situation is not limited to this generation. This negative culture is inherited by generation after generation.

This is undoubtedly an educational issue but our educators have totally ignored this matter and I don’t know the reason. I wrote an article titled «Letter to the Minister of Education» in Al-Watan Arabic daily a few years ago suggesting practical solutions to the problem, but it fell on deaf ears.

Students find the school neat and clean in the morning but they return home after throwing garbage everywhere on the campus as well as in the bus and the streets. After school hours, cleaners will come to collect garbage left by students and keep everything intact for classes to start smoothly the next day. The driver will clean the bus while municipality workers clean the streets. Some leftovers will be flying in the air and hang on trees in the surroundings.

This situation is a big disaster for our children, schools, streets, environment and the whole country. Do we tell our children to mess up everything, make everything dirty and destroy public property? Do we tell them that they need not worry about whatever they do?

Of course, we do not tell them in words, but we say it through our action and our meaningless solutions. We pay huge amounts of money to cleaning companies without caring for real solutions. The children do not feel guilty while throwing waste and make the classes dirty because we do not take any disciplinary measures against them and they do not feel the seriousness of what they have been doing. We have given them the impression that cleaners will come to remove the waste they have thrown out.

Education requires practical solutions rather than theoretical ones. In my opinion, the practical solution to solve this problem is to prevent cleaners — Saudis as well as non-Saudis — from our schools elementary to secondary level and instruct the students to clean the school daily. Every one of the students should be forced to take part in the cleaning exercise. Students should not be allowed to leave until they clean the school properly and make it neat as it was in the morning.

This is not something impossible. If we implement this system for a month, the children will get the impression that they have to keep the school and its surroundings neat and clean an deposit waste in the trash bins because they themselves will have to clean the waste thrown around as there is nobody to come and clean the school for them.

I will not hold the family responsible for the wrong actions of the students because they will not tamper with things at home like they do in the school or the street or in the park. There is a saying that “Your behavior reflects your education,” but I don’t think it is accurate because teenagers behave differently when they are with their peers. Their behavior will be quite different from what they display at home or in the presence of adults and even if they are alone.

On the other hand, when they are with peers, they will not find any problem in tampering with public property, showing an attitude of indifference and bypassing regulations. School is the best place to correct this behavior. We should ask students to clean the school and its surroundings and keep their tables and chairs intact until they leave the institution.

Parents should be asked to repair tables and chairs if their children have damaged them. This system will certainly change the mindset of students and make them responsible citizens.

I hope the Ministry of Education will pay attention to this matter and introduce it in the next academic year in both public and private schools after setting out a mechanism and linking cleanliness to the grades of students. We should prevent our students from tampering with public property to save state funds.

July 30, 2018
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