Friday, May 26, 2006

'Pee For Fee' - A Convent's Brain Wave.

Aah, the price one has to pay for brilliance and innovation! Someone had a flash of insight, a stroke of genius, and the cronies and hangers-on shouted ' wonderful idea! you amaze us Puan!'. And so was born the 'pee for fee' scheme.

The Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Infant Jesus Convent, Johor Baru, the alma mater of many accomplished women, has started this scheme, strictly imposing it on poor primary school kids! How thoughtless and unkind. Two silly reasons (at least in my book) have been given for this mercantile venture by the authorities:-

1) The convent is believed to have introduced the fee to recover some of the RM60,000 spent by the Parent-Teacher Association on the project to 'upgrade' the toilets. This is akin to collecting toll. I wonder if Datuk Seri Samy Vellu is the patron of their PTA!(Sorry, unnecessary remark). Apparently the charge is 10 sen entry fee for the third visit on any particular day. While some kids probably won't have to visit more than once or twice it is patently unfair to demand entry fees especially from those at an age where full bladder-control has not been optimized. Some irate parents said that this had led to children suffering a full bladder until they reached home. A few even had to stop at petrol stations after school to let their children answer the call of nature.

2) According to the NST report, it was also intended to prevent students from hanging around in the toilets during lessons. According to a teacher, the upgraded toilets were extremely popular among pupils because of the huge mirrors hanging in the place. "The students love it so much that many are excusing themselves from classes to go to the toilet. This is disrupting lessons." "We introduced the 10 sen fee to stop them from wasting time in the toilets," said another teacher who declined to be named.

Now the question arises why in the first place such a vast amount of money was spent in constructing '5-star' toilets. If the huge mirrors were so popular they must really be attractive and more in place at a hotel than in a primary school toilet. Or did someone make a little 'side-money' in the tender and contract phase of the construction?

To say that the fee was imposed to prevent pupils from frequenting the loo and wasting time there is unacceptable. The simplest solution would be for the teachers to take turns to monitor the pupils' visits and then focus on the culprits. Instead the school used that as an excuse to charge entry fees to recoup their expenses.

Convents were and I hope still are the cradles of an excellent, well-rounded, comprehensive and enlightened education and through their portals have walked some of the finest women of this country. They were at one time exclusive institutions which catered for the best. Egalitarian policies have changed the 'complexion' of these hallowed places of learning, and that's good; however the good practices of the past should be maintained and not toyed with by lesser mortals who are in positions of authority now.

****(Update - 27/5/06) In the NST today - The pay-to-pee system at a primary school here has been abandoned following protests from some parents. The headmistress of Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Infant Jesus Convent, Azizah Ahamad Tan said the school would come up with other means to stop pupils from loitering during school hours. "We regret that the 10-sen levy imposed on pupils wishing to use the toilet on more than two occasions during lesson time, has drawn protests from some parents. "We, however, wish to point out that the move was solely to prevent pupils from loitering at the toilet and not to collect money to cover the cost of its construction."(NST)

**** All's Well That Ends Well - William Shakespeare.


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