‘It’s really not healthy’

There is too little cleaning at public schools in Amsterdam. Toilets are so dirty that sometimes children prefer to hold their pee all day long. Parents and teachers are brought in to help clean up.

Raunak Khaddari

It’s not a fancy subject and schools prefer to keep quiet about the ‘germ bombs’ in their school, according to a tour. Dirt and shame still go hand in hand, and now that the problem is getting bigger, some are still talking: Amsterdam’s schools are dirty. In fact, so dirty that there are children who don’t go to the toilet.

“We have a student council with the older children in it,” says director Mirjam Roozendaal from the elementary school Corantijn in West. “I thought it was very annoying when they said that they don’t defecate at school anyway and, if possible, hold their pee all day long.” It’s really not good and not healthy.”

Never cleaned

At De Burght elementary school in Center and De Springstok in De Pijp, parents complain about the lack of hygiene. They think it is ‘actually too dirty’ to let their child go, but they see no other choice. Directors refer to directors – cleaning is arranged and agreed by boards.

Rooszendaal comments on it: “Our school is just really dirty. It has to do with budgets. We get 3 hours a day for a school with 190 children, 12 classrooms, two kitchens and 35 toilets. It’s far too little.”

“What I have now set is that parents come to help three times a year if they want to. And sometimes we roll up our sleeves with the team or I ask interns to help. Teachers are there to teach, not to clean. But yes… Many things never get cleaned. The window frames, e.g. Actually, it’s just a drama.”

Parents also undertake cleaning tasks at other schools. “Sometimes they come to clean themselves because they see that it is necessary,” says a teacher from a primary school in the East, who does not want to be named. “And sometimes I ask. We get countless complaints about the dirt. We have a playroom with blocks and lots of boxes of toys in them that are never, ever cleaned.”

Always complaining

A 57-year-old cleaning assistant, who also wishes to remain anonymous, who since 1993 has cleaned at various elementary schools in the East, says that he was scheduled for two hours. “But I got work for four hours. After two hours I went home and the school was not left clean. It’s too bad for the kids, but I don’t get paid enough to volunteer overtime. Last year I quit because no matter how well I did my job, there were always complaints about the cleaning while I can’t do anything about it. I did what I could in the hours I was given.”

In addition to calculating too few hours, the cleaning industry, like other sectors, suffers from a lack of staff. Asito, the cleaning company that works with De Burght, among others, recognizes that there are coating problems; In North Holland alone, the company already has 70 vacancies.

‘Just like the teacher shortage’

CSU, the cleaning company that cleans schools in the East, and where the 57-year-old cleaner worked, refuses to say no. In a written response, a spokesman says that “it is customary to clean every afternoon”. “During the day pollution can of course occur, especially in a primary school with younger children.” The spokesperson also says there are no known complaints or staffing issues at CSU, although there are 16 vacancies for school cleaners in Amsterdam.

Theo Hooghiemstra, director of the Amsterdam-West Binnen De Ring school board, which includes the primary school Corantijn, denies the problems, while the school board of the Public Education Foundation on Amstel (OOadA), which includes De Burght and De Springstok, says it is ‘a difficult and recognizable situation ‘ calling. “It is actually like the lack of teachers, there are too few people, and therefore we are forced to move people from one temporary place to another temporary place. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and we and the cleaning company can’t fill a gap.”

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