Citizens’ audit: Many NCR schools non-compliant with sanitation standards

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    MORE than 80 percent of multi-storey public elementary and high school buildings in Metro Manila evaluated in a Citizens’ Participatory Audit last year failed the required height of steel railings to prevent accidents like falling.

    Over 60 percent did not have toilets for persons with disabilities (PWDs) while nine schools were found to have common or shared toilets for boys and girls, prompting a warning about “increased risk” for girls and young school children.

    The Citizens’ Participatory Audit (CPA) was conducted from September 30, 2019 to February 2020 by two teams covering 158 out of a total 792 government primary and secondary schools in the National Capital Region using “statistical sampling design.”

    The 69-page report was released by the Commission on Audit last January 25 although a copy was already submitted to Education Secretary Leonor Briones on January 8, 2021.

    Private citizens who took part in the audit came from non-government organizations (NGOs) namely Caucus of Development NGOs (CODE-NGO), Metro Manila Federation of Persons with Disability, Quezon City Federation of Persons with Disability, and Unang Hakbang Foundation with its partner Pinagsamang Lakas ng Kabataan (PILAK). Working with them were three retired senior state auditors who have all previously worked with the Department of Education Audit Group.

    The audit was conducted based on standards for safety and comfort set under the DepEd Order No. 64 issued on December 15, 2017.

    The same standard set a minimum height for steel railings at 1.5 meters whether for ground floor or upper floors of the structure.

    Out of 158 schools, the audit revealed that 131 or 82.91 percent failed the minimum steel railing height requirement, only 20 complied and the remaining seven were marked “not applicable.”

    The report noted that before DepEd Order No. 64, the height of railings for corridors as only 1.2 meters but this was increased to 1.5 meters when the designs for multi-storey school buildings was approved in 2018.

    The audit team recommended that “makeover activities” be undertaken “to increase their height …and reduce the risk of someone falling from the building.”

    Under the 2010 Education Facilities Manual, the recommended ratio of toilet bowl/urinal per student was 1:50.

    However, the government was found to have cut corners on the assumption that not all 50 students use the facilities at the same time and “due to budget constraints.” The result: only three urinals/toilet bowls were installed for each gender per floor of the buildings.

    While more than 69 percent of the audited schools were found compliant with the required sanitary facilities when it came to ground floor restrooms, all 158 schools failed as soon as the inspection moved up to the upper floors.

    The audit team declared all upper floor toilets “unsanitary.”

    “In most cases, water supply was only available in the toilets located at the ground floor. In the absence/non-availability of pressure tanks, the lack of water in toilets located in the upper floors made it hard to maintain their cleanliness, leaving the upper level toilets facilities non-functional,” the report noted.