Most adults don’t think of going to the bathroom as a privilege. When “nature calls” we take care of business at home, on the job or wherever we find accessible facilities. But in U.S. schools, bathroom breaks are not necessarily available on an as-needed basis. Frequently, there are no clear school policies about when students can use the bathroom. Decisions are left up to individual teachers, who may be reluctant to allow children to leave class for bathroom breaks because they worry about lost classroom time or misconduct in restrooms.

However, the resulting wait to go to the bathroom is not only stressful for students; it poses health risks, according to Rebecca Nebel, Ph.D., Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) Director of Scientific Programs. She says that restricting access to the bathroom forces students into unhealthy toileting habits, such as holding in urine, which may follow them into their adulthood.

Restrooms Are a Foreign Concept for Many Students Around the World

Children in the U.S. may suffer from a lack of consistent bathroom policies, but in other parts of the world, school bathroom privileges are a foreign concept. Schools in many developing countries don’t have toilets much less clean water.

WaterAid, a charity which provides clean water, decent toilets and hygiene knowledge to people who don’t yet have access to them, warned in its “State of the World’s 2018 Toilets” report that 620 million children’s education and health is compromised by lack of decent school toilets. The charity reported that one in five primary schools and one in eight secondary schools do not have any toilets. Where there are toilets, one in three lack of sanitation. Sanitation-related illnesses can result in missed school days and the loss of potential.

The lack of decent toilet facilities is particularly challenging for girls, especially during their menstruation. Among the other findings in its report, WaterAid found that across South Asia, more than a third of girls miss school for between one and three days a month during their period. WaterAid has called on governments to address school sanitation to ensure the specific needs of girls for privacy, safety, and dignity.

Ann Foundation Is Helping to Address the Shortage of School Restrooms in Developing Countries

Ann Foundation has been helping to address the need for proper toilets and sanitation through a number of projects. There the students suffer from discomfort and embarrassment because the only toilet facility is available in the dormitory, which is a distance from the classroom. And they only get one bathroom break a day!

In June of 2018, Ann Foundation built 10 school toilets, five for the girls and five for the boys to help solve this problem. Find out more about the IELC project and how your donation has created a better and healthier environment for the students.