The plan of the Federal Government to end open defecation by 2025 could suffer a setback if some schools in the North Central region do not have access to toilet facilities.
According to Nigeria’s National Road Map to making the country Open Defecation Free (ODF) by 2025, more than 45 million people practice the menace in Nigeria. The country’s ODF Roadmap implies that to eliminate open defecation, government must ensure access to toilets in communities, schools, markets and other public places.
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However, as citadels of learning, Daily Trust Saturday reports that many public schools in the country’s North Central states where young minds are nurtured have become breeding grounds for open defecation. Our correspondents report that the lack of toilet facilities, water supply and poor maintenance in states across the region are forcing students to cultivate the dangerous culture of open defecation.
Open defecation common in Lafia schools
Students of Government Science School, Lafia, in Nasarawa State, have admitted to engaging in open defecation but said the lack of adequate water and a functional borehole to flush the school toilets was responsible for their action.
Investigations by Daily Trust Saturday correspondent revealed that some students would rather use the surrounding areas near the toilets than use the toilets built by government. It was observed that the surroundings of the six toilets for male and female students were littered with heaps of dirty sachets of water and excreta.
A female student, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said open defecation was common due to lack of water and the fear that they could get bacterial infections. Another female student, who shared her experience with our correspondent, said as someone from the rural area who was not familiar with the use of modern toilet facility, she preferred to defecate outside the toilet.
Another source from the school told our correspondent that the lack of a functional bole hole to flush the toilets was responsible for open defecation adding that the only functional borehole in the school which uses solar barely last for an hour.
“The school has six toilets – three for the male students and three for the female students. Lack of water is our major problem. We are appealing to the state government to assist the school with a functional borehole,” he said.
Also speaking, a male student who condemned the act of defecating outside the school toilets, said the action was responsible for most of the cholera and diarrhea outbreaks being experienced.
“Our toilets are very close to the only functional borehole where we fetch water to cook and drink. Imagine if it rains, the water will flow down to the tap area and before you realize it, one would unknowingly contact diseases like cholera,” he stated.
When contacted for comment, the state Commissioner of Education, Mrs. Fati Jimeta-Sabo, said she would not talk to our correspondent on phone and asked him to visit her office the next day.
Poor toilets exposing Kwara students to rape, death
For students in many of the public secondary schools across Kwara State, inadequate toilet facilities continue to push students into the practice of open defecation. Not only are the toilets grossly inadequate in many schools but the state of the facilities is appalling and poses great health risks to users.
Findings by Daily Trust Saturday during a visit to some of the public schools in Ilorin metropolis showed that over 2,500 students spread across several classes compete for four toilets which in most cases lack water and maintenance. In other schools, the few teachers have more access to toilets while the larger population of students are left with a few poorly maintained facilities.
In some of the schools visited, the stench from the poorly maintained pit facility is enough to suffocate the users as excreta and urine litter the floor. Our correspondents gathered that whenever students are pressed during school hours, they are left with no option than to move outside the school premises or visit nearby bushes to ease off.
A teacher in one of the public schools in Ilorin described the situation as pathetic and worrying, adding that most students have to go outside the school premises during school hours which exposes them to attacks and compromising situations.
“We have about 1,500 students in the school and there are just four toilets for both male and female students while the few teachers excluding the principal have five toilets to themselves. There is no toilet for the senior students and although one is helpless as a teacher, I can only imagine what the students go through,” he said.
He said because there is no water and no one assigned to clean the available toilets, they are often messed up. “We have had cases of some female students being raped and even killed when they go to the bushes to defecate,” the teacher added.
One of the students at St. Anthony Senior and Junior Secondary Schools, Offa road, Ilorin, narrated how students often rush home or to nearby bushes to ease off because the toilets were often littered with excreta.
“There is nobody assigned to clean or maintain the toilets and so when we are pressed, we either hold it until we get home or find a more convenient place to openly defecate. It is bad especially for female student because we have one block of four toilets that serve the fifteen classes from JSS1-3 with over a hundred students in each.”
At the Government Day Secondary Schools, Ilorin, another student said female students no longer use the toilets for fear of contracting infectious diseases. “The place is so bad and so we don’t use it except on very rare occasions when you have no choice or when you suspect some danger lurking outside the school,” she said.
In Plateau, students, teachers find solace in bushes
In Plateau State, Daily Trust Saturday correspondent observed a dilapidated and non-existent state of toilet facilities in some schools. At Government Secondary School Yelwa, in Shendam Local Government Area of the state, the only available toilet in the school is in a deplorable condition with over 70 percent of the facility collapsed, taking with it, the roofing, doors and part of the floor.
An SS3 female student of the school told our correspondent that because of lack of toilet facilities, students had no alternative than to use open places to defecate. “Take a brief tour around, you will see how students defecate around the school environment, there is no option than to rush to the bush because we cannot go back home when pressed,” she said.
A female JSS3 student of the school also told our correspondent that the school had suffered many years of neglect in the area of hygiene as there is no adequate and safe toilet facility for both students and staff. She said the provision of toilets would help shape their learning abilities so they don’t have to always leave the school environment to the bush where they are often exposed to health implications and dangerous animals.
In Amper town of Kanke LGA, the story is not so different as there are no toilet facilities in some of the schools. At Government Secondary School Forkhir, an SS2 student told Daily Trust Saturday that there were no toilet facilities for both students and teachers, adding that all students use the surrounding bushes to defecate. “I believe even the staff do the same because they don’t have toilets too. It has been a great challenge for us and during the raining season, it becomes more challenging because everywhere becomes grassier and there is fear of being bitten by snakes.”
Crude lavatories; more for teachers, less for students in Kogi
In Kogi State, crude but nevertheless functional lavatories with oozing offensive smell in some schools could push students to open defecation. Our correspondent who visited selected schools gathered that the state government had provided toilet facilities for both staff and students but the toilets are inadequate with some constructed using corrugated sheets that are already falling apart.
At Muslim Community Secondary School, Lokongoma, our correspondent noticed a make-shift public convenience made from corrugated roofing sheet within the school premises for both staff and students. Though it was constructed primarily for urination, heaps of cellophane bags with contents suspected to be excreta were seen around the toilet area. Our correspondent also observed an alternative two blocks of toilets provided by the side of the classrooms which were under lock and key. Those in need, it was gathered would have to collect the keys from the school’s computer room.
According to a student, open defecation is not common among students of the school but said certain outsiders responsible for vandalizing the school fence often defecate in the area and sometimes dump refuse by the fence after school hours. He said a routine maintenance of the facilities to avoid offensive odour from the toilets was ongoing.
A similar situation was observed at Government Day Secondary School Adankolo where the public convenience for both the staff and students are grossly inadequate. According to a student in the school, a single block with two toilets within the school compound was meant for male and female staff while the two blocks of four toilets outside were shared by both staff and students.
Our correspondent gathered that while the staff have access to four toilets all togethers, the students, who constitute the larger population have only two toilets.
The student told our correspondent that the staff have been doing their best to keep their toilets in proper hygienic condition, but those shared by male and female students are often in a messy state.
He pointed out that the students, as a matter of sanitation, have been washing the toilets but regretted that no sooner had they washed them than the same old offensive odour is emitted from the pit toilets due to misuse.
In Niger, poor maintenance culture encouraging open defecation
In Niger State, open defecation in many secondary schools has become the norm as students say they cannot remember when last they used clean toilet facilities in school. Findings by our correspondents reveal that though there are toilet facilities in many of the schools, the lack of maintenance has put these facilities in deplorable state, making students to shun them. However, it was also observed that in some schools, about 1,000 students scramble for few available toilets.
For some of the female students who spoke with our correspondent, they would rather defecate in open spaces and surrounding bushes than use the few available toilets.
At the Army Day Secondary School Minna, findings show that there are three categories of toilets in the school divided between the principal, teachers and students.
However, because the students’ toilets are constantly in a mess, students would rather use open spaces, our correspondent gathered. “Nobody came to repair the student toilets, no cleaners in the school as we are expected to clean the toilets but as it is, we can’t even go near the toilets because it is so bad and we are scared of contracting diseases which is why we use the bush,” said a student.
At Government Day Secondary School Minna, our correspondent observed a different situation as the school can boast of a reasonable number of toilets even though it was observed that there were 12 toilets for the staff and nine for students.
A senior staff of the school who spoke to our correspondent anonymously gave credence to the intervention of the old student’s association which led to the renovation of the school building, toilets and digging of borehole.
“Some staff were assigned to handle the toilets while a female prefect handles the keys to them so as to check from time to time. The soakaway broke before resumption and the school repaired it. Our students are forced to maintain it on daily basis to make them clean,” he said.
However, our correspondent observed a puzzling situation at Government Girls Secondary School Old Airport road Minna where despite having about 30 toilets, students still practice open defecation.
A visit to the school environment which runs both day and boarding shows inbuilt toilets inside the hostel environment and others within the classroom environment. However, many of the toilets were dilapidated with their roofs blown off.
Due to the students lack of maintenance culture and lack of water supply, the toilets were messed up, leaving the students to succumb to open defecation despite the number of toilets in the school. They however urged government to make the toilets modern with water for easy cleaning.
Improved toilets, water in Benue schools curbing open defecation
In Benue State, public secondary schools now have improved toilets facilities for students’ convenience. This is a far departure from the past as our correspondent who visited some public secondary educational facilities observed that the sanitary conditions were fair as water and hygiene items were provided to ensure healthy environment for users.
At the Command Day Secondary School in NASME barracks, Makurdi, there are at least eight toilets available for the students’ use. An SS3 student, Badiya Isiaka, told our correspondent that four of the toilets were allocated to females while the remaining four were for the male students.
Isiaka said the toilets are washed on daily basis by cleaners who also ensure that water containers were at all time filled with adequate water for use. “I personally use the toilet when I want to urinate or defecate. It’s very clean and we have sufficient water to flush after use,” she said.
Similarly, Paulina Ameh, an SS2 student of Government Model Secondary School in Makurdi said most students of the school use the toilet instead of practicing open defecation.
At UBE Junior Secondary School Nyiman in Makurdi, Philomena Yakwar, a JSS3 student, explained that the toilet facilities have running water, making it easier for students. “We don’t do open defecation because our toilets are adequate, clean and with running water. We won’t abandon such facilities for an open corner where we, especially females will expose ourselves while defecating,” Yarkwar added.
Our correspondent reports that their views were corroborated by their counterparts in some local government areas such as Gboko, Otukpo and Vandekiya, where some of the students claimed more needed to be done despite the general sanitary improvement.
Reacting to the development, a UNICEF/DFID’s consultant, Joy Makeri, told our correspondent that there were great improvements but there are still gaps needed to be covered in secondary schools in the state.
She said that UNICEF, working with the state’s Universal Basic Education Board, had intervened in providing toilets for schools in the state but said a lot in sensitization needed to be done to educate the students and pupils.
“The usage is poor in some schools. We will continue sensitization in the schools and encourage them to form WASH clubs, some of the schools already have it. UNICEF will continue to create awareness until it becomes a lifestyle. People including students need to imbibe the culture of good and proper hygiene,” Makeri posited.
Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi), Romoke W. Ahmad (Minna), Mumini Abdulkareem (Ilorin), Ado Abubakar Musa (Jos), Adama John (Lokoja) & Umar Muhammed (Lafia)