The only way to keep public toilets clean is to treat them the way you would at home.
For V. Komathy, 45, the cleaner responsible for Ipoh City Council’s award-winning toilets, it all boils down to attitude.
“Would you leave your toilet at home filthy?” she asked.
The once-dilapidated facility at the council’s Town Service Section in Buntong received a facelift after a visit by Mayor Datuk Zamri Man last year.
The 25-year-old toilet won gold in the 1Malaysia Clean Toilets Awards, which was organised by the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry last year.
Here is Komathy’s story:
“I was born and raised in Ipoh. I had wanted to further my studies. However, I fell in love with my husband in secondary school and decided to get married instead. I was a homemaker up until 15 years ago, when I decided to join the workforce.
“My husband is a garbage truck driver, so I decided to join as a general worker.
“My mother did not agree, but I chose to work with the council anyway. My four children are supportive of my work. At home, I am a ‘sporting’ mother, but I teach them to appreciate cleanliness and practise it at home.
“Previously, I was assigned to clean and sweep public areas, like road and drains. When I was informed that I would be in charge of the newly renovated toilets last year, I was nervous, but took up the challenge anyway. My supervisors were very supportive.
“One of the most annoying habits of users is to leave the toilets unflushed.
“There is no way around it. Would you leave your toilet at home filthy? The same applies to public toilets. If everyone played their part, we can maintain cleanliness.
“When I learnt that we won the award, I was happy to have made my family proud. I am happy that the Ipoh City Council won it. Some of my friends had even asked about the win. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. I went for the award-giving ceremony in Kuala Lumpur and received the award from the minister (Tan Sri Noh Omar).
“I can say that our hard work had paid off. My children and colleagues are happy for me.
“Now, the challenge is for us to maintain this and make sure that our toilets stay clean. It is quite hard, as the restrooms are frequently used by the Town Service Section staff (some 700 council staff, including truck drivers and workers in charge of garbage collection). They would return from their duties with wet boots. So, I have to make sure that I wash the floor twice daily.
“Do your best in whatever profession you choose. I am proud of my job. There is nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing wrong with sweeping roads as it is a noble job. Do not ever think that your work is not good enough, or others have a better job than you. As long you as you give your best... that is all that matters.
“As for me, I am making a decent living, and that is all that matters.”
Award the result of teamwork between management and staff
The fragrant smell of pandan leaves gives an air of freshness as one enters the restrooms at the Ipoh City Council’s Town Service Section in Buntong.
Despite the space constraint, the council did a good job in redesigning the 25-year-old toilets, completing its facelift in time for the 1Malaysia Clean Toilets Awards (ATB1M).
The toilets won the Gold Award in the Government Office Category last year.
The restrooms are equipped with showers and squat toilets. The combined use of natural and mechanical ventilation methods, inspired by rest and relax areas along PLUS highways, minimises bad odours.
The win is a result of effective teamwork between the city council’s management and staff, including V. Komathy, who was assigned to monitor and clean the toilets frequented by Town Service Section staff.
Public Health Urban Services Department assistant director S. Manisegaran said while Ipoh had a list of award-winning public toilets, it was the first time the council had submitted an entry for its own toilet.
ATB1M was established by the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry in 2010 to rate and reward clean public toilets.
It wants all public toilets to be rated three-stars (satisfactory) and above by 2020.
The toilets are evaluated based on the environment (lighting, water supply, ventilation and sewage treatment), structure and maintenance (floor, ceiling, sinks, wash basins and toilet bowls) and sanitary facilities (soap dispensers and tissue papers).
Other criteria are toilet
signages, toilet cleaning activities (cleaning schedule, storage and tidiness) and additional facilities (mirrors, hangers, decoration, diaper changing rooms and toilets for the disabled).
Toilets in Malaysia are given either five stars (very clean), four (clean), three (satisfactory), two (average), one (less clean) or zero (dirty).