Flushed with anger: school in China enforces ‘toilet pass’ to limit loo trips for students, provoking outrage and ridicule on social media

A secondary school in China has demanded its students show a “toilet pass” for using bathrooms on campus, sparking a flush of anger – mixed with a splash of humour.

A video clip of the paper pass, stamped with the official seal of Yiwen School in Yangjiang city in southeast China’s Guangdong province, went viral after it was posted online.

A total of 5 million people have viewed the video on Douyin – the mainland version of TikTok.

A member of staff at the school said they had implemented the policy in an effort to limit the number of students leaving class at the same time and to prevent entire groups from skipping classes, especially evening self-study sessions.

The policy was stopped on September 26, staff said, and the local education authority was investigating.

The “toilet pass” initiative was taken because school chiefs wanted to prevent “group visits” to the bathroom. Photo: Douyin

Online observers were incensed on behalf of the students, believing that the school’s policy violated their rights.

“Stop doing such anti-human things and focus on education,” one person wrote on Weibo.

“If a student really needs to use the toilet and cannot go because they don’t have a toilet pass, how would the school be responsible ?” said another.

“Do you require a pass for eating, drinking water, speaking and breathing at the school too?” a third quipped on Douyin.

A few people said they understood the school’s dilemma, and believed it was simply trying to guide its students and stop them from “making mistakes”.

Controversial school rules in China have frequently been highlighted in the media, provoking discussions about an education system some say lacks empathy.

In August, a primary school, also in Guangdong province, was criticised for demanding afternoon nap fees from the parents of pupils.

It set up three ranks of charges: 200 yuan (US$28) per term for napping at the desk, 360 yuan for lying on mats in classrooms, and 680 yuan for a bed in dedicated napping rooms.

Despite the school being berated by online observers as “desperate to make money”, the local government supported the charges saying they were reasonable payments that were needed to pay for teachers to look after the children during breaks.

Online observers were outraged at the move which has sparked an investigation by local education officials. Photo: Douyin

A strict rule enforced in many mainland secondary schools is the insistence that students, both male and female, cut their hair short in the belief it helps them focus on their studies.

China’s Civil Code, enacted in 2021, bans any organisation or individual from trying to control their personality. In reality, students and their parents are anxious about being rejected by schools if they do not adhere to the rules.

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