The class had just started and the teacher was taking attendance. The students answered as their names were called. The class went on but nobody could ignore the stench which was coming from the street outside their window.
Their compound wall was used being as a urinal because of the lack of proper facilities in the school.
It was then that five boys of Panchayat Union Middle School in Kurumbapatti in the Thirucharapalli district of Tamil Nadu decided that they should turn things around.
Supik Pandian, Ragul, Prabaharan, Dhayanithi, and Santhosh invented urinals out of 20-litre water cans and even made a proper grid of pipelines for waste disposal. This was named the 'Safe Mode Pissing System' or SMPS.
They entered their names in the 'DFC I Can School Challenge 2016' awards organised by Design for Change, a non-profit organisation. On course of the 30 days they had to brainstorm and execute their idea, they came up with the urinal plan. The Safe Mode Pissing System won the 'Boldest Idea Award' which includes medals and a cash prize of Rs 50,000.
When asked why the boys came up with the idea, D. Kesavan, a second grade teacher who guided the five 13 year olds, said, “Students are falling sick. We knew the problem but we are a small school. We cannot afford urinals."
Affordability is why the boys came up with the idea of using the water cans as it was economical as well as easy to procure. Kesavan went on to say, “I am very proud of their creativity. This idea not only helped their school but also their neighbouring school. We went to that school and gave them tutorials on how to use it. They have now given away their original urinals and are using ours. This is a proud moment for our school and our district."
The cost of their invention is under Rs 600. When asked how they came up with such a tight budget, Kesavan said, “The boys wanted to do something which would be affordable for their friends and family. They didn’t want anyone to double think before buying the urinals because of the cost”.
Following the four step process of “Feel-Imagine-Do-Serve” set by the competition, the boys then decided to put the numerous empty water cans available to good use. Many water cans were used for other purposes by turning them into side-tables and dustbins.
Kesavan said, “We wanted to do something which will not be of extra cost and also not affect the environment."
Kesavan helped the students in mounting the cans on the walls and figuring out the plumbing and flushing mechanism of the urinals.
“We procured pipes from the farm near the school. We found almost everything at a very low cost. We only had to buy certain pieces in the market and these did not cost much. They had to choose a topic among health, school, environment and food for the theme of the project. I looked up videos on how to cut the plastic of bottles and taught them how to do it. The boys have done everything. I just helped them a little when they needed it. All this victory is theirs," said the proud teacher.
The middle school teaches 98 boys and girls who don’t belong to the area. Four urinals are in use now and the school management is looking for ways to improve the sanitary needs of the young girls attending the school.