From ‘What is the point of cleaning activity?’, 14 Dec 16, ST Forum
(David Soh Poh Huat): We need to ask ourselves what is the objective of getting children to do cleaning as part of their school routine (“All schools to have cleaning activities daily from January“; Dec 12).
Is it to help the schools save on costs? Is it to create social responsibility in children, and if so, does it work? Do the schools just not have any other programmes?
Already, it is compulsory for children to return their food trays after eating in their school tuckshops. It is enforced in school, but when we go to public food courts, how many children actually remind their parents to return the trays or do it themselves?
I hope the planners of these activities will look at what the objectives are.
As early as the 70’s, concerned parents echoed the complainant’s objection to having pupils ‘slog like slaves’. There was even a time when kids were made to wash toilets, with parents then whining as they would today with the ‘I send my kid to school to study, not to clean toilets’ mentality. These likely being the same parents herding their kids into enrichment programmes anyway even if they spend 100% of their damn time in school studying.
Being a environmentally responsible citizen extends beyond merely returning trays at food courts; from leaving the toilet seat free of pee stains to conscious attempts to minimise carbon emissions when you travel. Despite decades of schools instilling ‘social responsibility’, we continue to be spoilt by an army of foreign cleaners, horde NTUC plastic bags and jet-set on budget airlines like nobody’s business. So whether passing the broom and toilet brush to kids now to inculcate the clean and green habit would be better long-term for the environment remains to be seen.
What you can’t argue against is that doing chores is actually a decent form of exercise, especially with today’s kids having their lazy arses chauffeured to and fro school by their parents. For the less athletically-inclined pupils, it would the preferred option to tossing medicine balls during PE. For the kids who spend their waking life on homework and tuition, wiping the windows would likely be the most physically strenuous activity of their day. So yes, if there would be a valid point of making children do the ‘maids’ work’, it’s to make sure they don’t die of diabetes before they hit 30.
I believe the yoke of repetitive chores also brings benefits beyond helping boys cope with area cleaning in the army. It’s like trekking up to Shambala to seek enlightenment and having your master grill you into picking weeds for hours on end. You may not see the purpose now, but years from now you’ll look back fondly on your gardening days and appreciate how the mundane practice prepared you for nirvana.