倒夜香極為辛苦，因此工友們也極為重視下一代的教育，認為只有教育能夠讓孩子們擺脫這份艱辛無比、卻又得忍受他人異樣眼光的行業。倒夜香工友位於齊來亞路的宿舍——潮興公司，在2015年因為讓路於發展而被拆除之前，該建築內依然保存著當年工友們為華教募捐而收到、由大馬華校教師總會贈送的 “維護華教教育” 牌匾。
The Story of Night Soil Workers
May 1969, the 513 incidents took the town by storm. People were frightened by the chaos and daily lives were affected. Under such unstable situation, a group of people, however, were forced to carry out their work as usual escorted by anti-riot soldiers or there will be more serious issues than racial conflict.
They were the night soil workers who cleaned every household’s excretion.
Night soil worker, mostly male and ones who carry on after his father.
In late 20th century and before automatic sewage treatment systems were established, night soil workers shouldered not only latrine pails but also a very important responsibility concerning the city’s public sanitation. However, due to the rather unique nature of this occupation, their mission did not receive much credits or attentions. Instead, they were forgotten or ignored on purpose.
Night soil is a tough job. That’s why the workers emphasis on education of the younger generations. Only the educated ones could get a better life without being despised. The workers’ hostel in Jalan SP Chelliah – Teo Hin Kongsi, was demolished for new developments. There was a tablet presented by The United Chinese School Teachers’ Association of Malaysia as a token of appreciation to these humble workers for their contributions to the development of Chinese educations.
They worked seven days a week, and almost without any day off throughout the year. Although they were given annual leave of between 12 to 18 days (based on seniority and position), but most of their holidays were compensated with incentives. This is because there were short of hands without proper sewage treatment so they had no choice but to work every day.
Anyway, the Penang City Council made a change since 1960s. With the continuation of the British colonial government system, workers were granted a few fixed holidays including Qingming, Zhongyuan, the 15th day of twelfth lunar month and Chinese New Year so they, especially the Chinese workers, could have a little time for their own. Besides this, the 29th day of seventh lunar month was also marked as special holiday and provided free hostel, social insurance, overtime incentives to these hardworking staff.
They woke up every morning at 4 – 5am to get ready for the day. When the supervisor arrived, marked attendance and arranged work shifts, 7 groups of 7 to 8 workers would follow the so called “36 doors” night soil vans and went on their ways to knock on every door at 6am or so. They would visit every house in the designated area, clean the latrine pail every other day or every day (upon request). The procedures start from collecting the pail from the latrine and replace with an empty one. Cover the loaded pail and carry it to the collecting van. The van will then send the collected excretion to the sewage treatment plant. The process may seem simple but it required efficiency. Everything must be done fast and accurate. Because people will have lunch around mid-day, their work needs to be completed before 11am.
The back of Teo Hin hostel was an oblong sized open-air bathroom. Every day, workers will have their bath here after work to wash away the odour. Most of them did not rest after that. Instead, they would move on to their other jobs, some went on as excretion collector in the rural area or villages, and others as construction site worker and so on. As past time, these workers may gather around for casual chats, mah-jong and “Four Colour Cards”. The hostel used to have soccer field, badminton court too. Because the workers dealt with excretion and so they were very well aware of hygiene. They maintained the hostel clean all the time. The workers’ were true devout too. They would pray to deities that came to Penang all the way from China included Mazu, Xuantian God, Monkey God, and Tuapekkong for a smooth day. Especially the Tuapekkong where the workers would celebrate the 15th day of the twelfth lunar month every year and this tradition is still going on until today.