By Odimegwu Onwumere
A greater part of public nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary schools across the country do not have lavatories, experts said. Some of them that have toilets, either the restrooms do not have doors or water system for users’ convenience.
Confirming this, Mr. Ishaya Dare Akawu, as the chairman of the Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), apparently said that he had visited most Nigerian schools and they do not have toilets and many do not have contact to water.
For example, checks discovered that about 80% of primary schools in Enugu North had no toilet amenities and both the students and teachers defecated in the bush, especially in 2013. The schools that were affected were given as those in Udenu, Igbo-Eze North, Igbo-Eze South, Igbo-Etiti, Nsukka and Uzo-Uwani local government areas.
(Photo: from Daily Independent, Nigeria)
A primary school teacher, who said that he had been in the profession of teaching for the past 20 years, outwardly said: The issue of non-provision of toilet facilities has become part of the public school system in this part of the country. It is not even being regarded as a priority at all. So, over the years, we have become accustomed to using the bush, where it is available.
Teachers and students in many of the schools do not know when this will end. According to professionals, defecating in the bush by the students is very dangerous as many do not have sandals. They come to school barefooted and might be attacked by snake or bitten by poisonous ants when they go to the bush to defecate. The teacher added that it was a reprehensible feature for a teacher like him to rush into the bush like a hunter to answer the call of nature.
Investigation, however, revealed that the trend in Nigerian schools is that authorities build infrastructures without the provision for toilet and many that have, the toilets are under lock and key. Many of the teachers use the same toilet facilities with their students due to none are attached to their offices, therefore creating unfriendly environment in the schools.
A 400 level Adult Education/Political Science student at a tertiary institution in Lagos State said that the toilet situation in her school was appalling, which had to compel them to shut the windows of their kitchen while cooking to evade the offensive smell that oozed out from the toilet. Another student said that he contracted diarrhea from their school toilet and could not stay at home, but had to come to school, because he had an examination. Nevertheless, he messed his trouser up, which moved his colleagues into getting him another trouser to cover up.
Some of the schools have no water or are constantly in short of water, which make the toilets unclean. Students most times create an avenue for ‘water boy’, but that often fail. The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, frowned that the country was far from having child friendly school concept.
It said that this was widespread in various states in the country: A majority of primary schools, especially in rural areas, lack water, electricity and toilet facilities. For example, on average, there is only one toilet for 600 pupils in the primary school system. Despite political commitment to trying to reverse years of neglect in the education sector and a significant increase of the Federal funding, investment in basic education is still low compared to other Sub-Saharan countries.
Speaking in an investigation of some universities in the country on April 15 2012, some newsmen in the persons of Samuel Awoyinfa (Lagos), Mike Odiegwu (Yenagoa), Akinwale Aboluwade (Ibadan), Mudiaga Affe (Calabar), Femi Makinde (Ekiti), Success Nwogu (Ilorin), and James Azania (Edo), had this to say: Except for the new ones, the average public university in Nigeria is at least three decades old. Unlike old wines that mature with age, however, facilities in these tertiary institutions seem to age as the year passes, with many vice-chancellors promising to upgrade them.
They added that from their explorations, many of the universities lack basic infrastructure like regular water supply, sufficient accommodation, well-equipped libraries or functional rest rooms in the halls of residence or in lecture arenas. In a discussion of March 24 2013, the likes of James Azania, Success Nwogu, Gbenga Adeniji and Motunrayo Aboderin who went on a tour of some tertiary institutions did not sing a different song.
They reported that the schools sanitary conditions were in an appalling state, although there were imposing edifices and attention-catching frontage which usually welcomed visitors into many universities in Nigeria, the toilet facilities in many of the hall of residence in the institutions were in an unpleasant state. Across the country, students were lamenting the poor state of toilets and bathrooms in higher institutions.
In their account, the Aliyu Makama Bida female hostel of the University of Lagos, the toilet had unpleasant odour that could be perceived from the walkway leading to the hostel, which was helped by the smell of urine and garbage littering a corner of the toilet. One of the students, who gave his name as Mary Otobong, said: Promises are made by the hall management at the beginning of the year to improve on the facilities, but that they are yet to be fulfilled.
She also said that students were made to fetch water to flush the toilet, because the water system was faulty. Another student, Simi Omobode, whom they said was studying social studies in the institution at the time of the review, said that the toilets were in a terrible state. And that she usually had to contain herself from defecating until she was at a convenient place. Even when she said that she knew it was not good for her system, she had no choice.
Omobode continued that the cleaners who were employed to see that the toilets were kept clean hardly keep to the reason they were employed. According to the source, at Madam Tinubu Hall of the university, which was also a female hostel, student of educational studies, Ayomide Olabanji, said: Sometimes, the toilets are messed up with human waste for days without being washed. Taking our bath is usually a tug of war. The stench is terrible. So we have to hold our breath while bathing. If there was running water, it would help the situation.
The source continued that the story was not different from the male hotel; they were too dirty that many would prefer to hold what they should have given out freely from their systems till they get to a convenient place.
In the hostels it was noted: You can’t believe what goes on in Hall 1. When it’s dawn, students come out to take their bath in the open. It is even worse in Hall 2, where there is hardly a divide between the female and male hostels; you can trust some of the boys will want to catch a glimpse. They intentionally walk by to peep on the ladies who are taking their bath.
The story goes on: The toilets are nothing to write home about, and many of the ladies prefer to use the alternative, by defecating in nylon bags and flinging it across the walls; that is the in-thing and the best way to keep away from getting infected. Sanitary facilities there are simply inadequate and that’s why many prefer off-campus accommodation. In a room of four, you have legal and illegal squatters, it is so bad, but the students just have to move on until they get a better alternative.
Sanitation friendly-ethic in Nigerian schools is in sorry state. A visit to a school in Bayelsa State, this reporter was faced with a very scraggy-scruffy, dirty and soiled toilet. The toilet was a total despondency. A friend who went to the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO), the Imo State University as well as their corresponding ones in Uturu, Kwara, Abakiliki and Ekpoma etcetera, even said that their toilet situations were better mentioned in the dream.
Open defecation has become a tradition amongst students and teachers in the schools, which is against the World Health Organization (WHO) prescription of a healthy living. In its report of 2004, WHO said: 88% of diarrhea disease is accredited to hazardous water supply, derisory sanitation and hygiene and that enhanced water provision reduces diarrhea by between 6% and 25%. Improved sanitation decreases diarrhea by 32%.
This information was maintained by the scientific breakthrough that one gram of feaces can contain 10 million viruses, 1 million bacteria, 1 thousand parasite cysts, and a hundred worm eggs. The CEO of Rural Africa Water Development Project (RAWDP), a Nigerian Water and Sanitation NGO based in Owerri, Imo State, said: The unsanitary conditions typical of many school toilets send the wrong message to students about the importance of sanitation and hygiene; schools can become ideal places to establish good hygiene (and other) behaviours as well as to provide strong environmental models that can serve as examples.
Perhaps, Nigerians forgot that children/students who learn good hygiene in school, the source said, can also become important health promoters everywhere especially at home. The RAWDP scrutinized further: There is no doubt therefore that poor sanitation and its consequences particularly ill-health adversely affects school participation, lowering enrollment rates, increasing absenteeism, and contributing to poor classroom performance and early school dropout.
The source also said that such decreases learning capacity as measured in educational performance, outcomes, and productivity. The lack of appropriate sanitary facilities may discourage students/pupils from attending school; girls, who are menstruating, in particular, would rather not go to school than have to deal with the lack of privacy.
According to a statement credited to UNICEF Specialist, Amos Kudzala, while speaking at a two-day media dialogue on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), in Enugu recently, said: Advocating for the provision of WASH facilities in schools and hospitals across the country, he noted that every child, rich or poor, has the right to survive, the right to health, the right to access to improved water supply.
However, authorities believed that most of the toilet situations in the schools were not their fault, even when some students volunteer to put up some comatosed toilets in their schools, it was learnt that the students still do not use them properly, especially students at the tertiary level. To many of the students, sanitation is only a word that should be confined in the Dictionary.
Odimegwu Onwumere, a Poet/Writer, writes from Rivers State.