Dirty school toilets make Swedish kids sick: docs

Poorly cleaned toilets are to blame for increasing numbers of Swedish schoolchildren seeking medical treatment, paediatricians have warned, amid a rising number of complaints about the cleanliness of schools in Sweden.

Dirty school toilets make Swedish kids sick: docs

“Unfortunately, it’s quite common,” paediatrician Cecilia Chrapkowska at Astrid Lindgren’s Children’s Hospital told Sweden’s TV4 news.

She explained that many children seek treatment for stomach pains and vomiting because they refuse to use dirty school toilets.

“Those who suffer most are children who wet themselves, which can be a consequence of trying to hold it in all day,” she said.

Several paediatricians told TV4 that every third visit they receive is from a child with stomach or urinary tract problems.

Since 2007, the number of annual complaints about conditions in Swedish schools filed with the Swedish Work Environment Authority (Arbetsmiljöverket) has nearly doubled.

In 2007, the agency received 51 reports, while 91 reports were filed in 2012. So far this year, 71 complaints have been registered.

“A dirty toilet may result in children trying to hold it in all day and that can lead to medical problems,” the agency’s Fredrika Brickman told TV4.

In August, the agency launched a programme to carry out detailed reviews at 30 percent of the countries schools by 2016. Among other things, the reviews will look at stress, violence, as well as cleanliness.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s fundamental human right to be able to go to the toilet,” said paediatrician Chrapkowska.

TT/The Local/dl

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Distance learning remains a ‘possibility’ for Swedish schools: Education minister

Remote learning remains a possibility, but not an obligation, for schools in Sweden as students around the country begin term this week, the Education Minister said on Wednesday.

Distance learning remains a 'possibility' for Swedish schools: Education minister
Education Minister Anna Ekström (L) and general director of the Schools Inspectorate, Helén Ängmo. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Minister Anna Ekström made the comments during a press conference in which she outlined the rules ahead of back-to-school season but did not make any new announcements.

She urged schools to be “flexible”, outlining some of the measures which have been recommended by the National Board of Education since an early stage in the pandemic.

This include changing furniture arrangements to promote distancing, staggering lesson and break times to prevent students mixing in large groups, and increasing cleaning. Many parent-teacher meetings are likely to be cancelled, she said.

Schools for under-16s have remained open throughout the pandemic, and Ekström said this decision was based on research showing children were affected by the virus to a lesser extent. “The younger the child, the more mild the symptoms,” she said.

In Sweden, only one of the almost 6,000 people to have died after testing positive for the coronavirus was aged under 10, and none of the victims have been in the 10-19 age group.

Ekström added that no occupational group linked to schools had been over-represented in Sweden's coronavirus statistics.

In addition to taking this kind of measures, heads of schools have also been given additional decision-making powers.

These include the ability to switch to remote learning, or make other changes such as adapting the timetable (including moving lessons to weekends) if necessary due to the infection situation. 

“If the situation gets worse, teaching can be moved partially or entirely to distance learning. This could happen in the whole country, individual schools, or in municipalities or regions where schools may need to close as a measure to prevent spread of infection,” Ekström said.

“The government is prepared to take measures, but we don't want to close schools.”