For pupils in public primary and secondary schools in Borno, Jigawa, Kwara and Plateau states, access to decent toilet facilities is not a right but a privilege. The scarcity of the toilets has made the pupils to defecate in the open whenever they are pressed.
The few available toilets in the schools visited by LEADERSHIP Weekend in these four states are unfit for human beings and in a learning environment such as schools for children and teenagers.
Although, the trend is common in public schools across the federation, the situation in the four states is alarming as the ugly sight of faeces around the premises, the stench that attracts the swam of flies and the heap of rubbish indiscriminately dumped, are enough to transmit diseases to anyone visiting the schools, much more the pupils that live with them.
Apart from the ugly unkempt nature of the toilets, some of the schools have bred a culture of habitual littering, which is seen in the manner wastes are indiscriminately dumped all over their compounds, even as the existence of garbage bins in some areas do not guarantee proper disposal or management of the wastes.
This is the health and life-threatening situations pupils and students in public primary and secondary schools in these states are currently battling with due to open defecation resulting from poor sanitary system, lack of other basic infrastructure and population pressure ignited by the security challenges in some of the states.
However, with steps being taken by the Jigawa State government, the state may exit this category in the nearest future.
The worst-hit school is Mafoni Primary School in Maiduguri, Borno State where over 4,700 pupils share only two toilets with intruders and visitors to the school.
The school is located near the Shehu of Borno Palace and the house of former governor of Northern Region, the late Sir Kashim Ibrahim. It has been a ground marked for possible cholera outbreak if authorities failed to address the sanitary system in the school.
Established in 1962, the wind of the mega schools constructed by the immediate past governor Kashim Shettima, who has moved to the 9th Senate, did not blow in the direction of this over-populated and congested primary school.
Sadly, these toilets are filled up and with faeces all over the floor and corridor with the surroundings decorated with drops of faeces which send unpleasant smell to the various classrooms where pupils are learning.
Apart from the open defecation and the poor toilet facility in the school, inadequate classrooms and other learning facilities are begging for government’s attention as some of the classes visited by LEADERSHIP Weekend have between 250 to 300 pupils sitting on the bare floor learning in a class meant for 50 pupils.
The mood of the pupils in their poor structured learning classes is that of dejection as children abandoned to their fate, based on the environment they found themselves.
The story is not different from the sister school which is Mafoni Junior Secondary School, still sharing same environment.
The junior secondary school which has a total of 1,500 students is also battling with the challenges of poor toilet facilities and inadequate classrooms.
Some of the classrooms have up 150 students per class while only five toilets which were recently reconstructed through a World Bank-assisted project are what the 1,500 students with their 50 teaching staff use.
While some of the students sit on the few chairs available, others sit on bare floor to learn in addition to the absence of fans in all the schools despite the congestion and sometimes the harsh heat condition Borno is known for.
The inadequate toilet facilities and poor sanitary condition also extend to other schools in the state.
According to the principal of Bolori Day Junior School, over 1,000 students use the eight toilet facilities in the school. The same goes for Sir Kashim College of Education, Maiduguri, where the toilets are another eyesore.
Rather than urinating inside the toilets, students choose to face on the walls of the classes because of the filthy condition of the toilets with river of urine on the floor.
A female student of Sir Kashim College of Education told LEADERSHIP Weekend that her colleagues at times choose to urinate outside the premises or behind the wall of the school to avoid contracting infection from the dirty toilets.
Further investigation shown that part of the causes of the challenges facing the schools could not be unconnected to the over 10 years’ insurgency that has ravaged the state.
Most of the people from the local government areas critically affected by the Boko Haram crisis fled to Maiduguri with their children, who were enrolled at the various schools, thereby overstretching the existing facilities.
Many pupils and students from the various primary and secondary schools in some of the local government areas destroyed by the terrorists in their deadly crusade are now transferred to the schools in the capital, thus contributing to the crisis of toilet facilities, inadequate classrooms among others.
The chairman, State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Shettima Kullima, declined to comment on the poor state of the schools. He said that he can’t speak on the matter until he gets clearance from the state government.
But the state chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Comrade Jibrin Mohammed, said that the trend of open defecation in school premises poses danger to the health of the children.
Jibrin further said that it I sad to find out about 250 to 300 pupils in one classroom learning on the bare floor.
The NUT boss, however, said that there are several factors that led to the situation, stressing that with the insurgency, one finds that all the local governments with the exception of only five in southern Borno are all in Maiduguri now.
In Kwara State, the situation is not different as most public primary and secondary schools do not have toilet facilities. However, a few have pit latrines.
It was discovered that only first generation secondary schools in Ilorin, the state capital where boarding facilities are available, have functional toilets for both students and teachers.
The schools include Government Secondary School and Queen Elizabeth School, both in Ilorin.
Generally, there is the problem of infrastructure decay in the state’s public schools because the immediate past state government did not access the Universal Basic Education Fund in the last four years as it failed to pay its counterpart fund.
The release of N450 million to UBEC recently by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, has rekindled the hope of the state to start accessing UBEC fund.
When this happens, most schools in the state may undergo renovation and the issue of non-existence or inadequate toilet facilities may be addressed.
Some head teachers who spoke with LEADERSHIP Weekend on condition of anonymity appealed to the new administration to urgently look into the problem of infrastructure decay in various schools and provide toilet facilities where they do not exist.
In one of the schools visited, there is a toilet facility only for the teachers. In another school, toilet facilities are available for both the teachers and students, though they are pit latrines constructed by UBEC and are well maintained.
In Jos, the Plateau State capital, most of the public primary and secondary schools have no toilet facilities for the pupils and students to use.
As their contemporaries in other affected states, the development has left the students and pupils with no option than to resort to open defecation even at the expense of their health and those living within the school environment.
At the RCM Primary School in Zarmaganda in Jos South local government area of the Bukuru metropolis, the school which operates two sections has no toilet facilities.
Apart from open defecation, huge refuse is seen in the school compound. The population of the pupils is about 500 in each section and the pupils defecate on the playing ground.
When our correspondent visited the premises of the school, feaces littered the environment, raising fears of a cholera outbreak, if unaddressed quickly. Some of the toilet facilities under construction have been abandoned while others are in near collapse.
Also in Township Primary and Secondary School in Jos North local government area, the story is the same
One of the teachers said that there are two toilets; one is for pupils and the other for the staff.
He pointed out the two toilets were always locked because they have been completely filled and are therefore out of use by pupils and staff in the last two years now.
The teacher said: “This development has led to open defecation. You can see human excreta littering the school compound.”
Apart from this disturbing sight and stench, there is also a huge refuse dump in the compound with pupils playing around it.
In Jigawa State, most of the public primary and secondary schools have toilet facilities but they are not enough to carter for the huge pupil and student population.
Beside the inadequacy of the facilities, the shortage of water and poor sanitation make them very difficult for the students to use.
The director of Works at the state Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Alhaji Alhassan Ibrahim said that 105 hand pump and 153 blocks of three-unit toilets were constructed in both primary and junior secondary schools to promote hygiene and sanitation in the last two years.
The managing director of Rural Water and Sanitation Agency (RUWASA), Labaran Adamu, said that from 2016 till date, the agency has constructed 1,222 blocks of toilets under the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme funded jointly by UNICEF and state government.
He said the toilet facilities which were mostly built in schools and other public places were aimed at promoting hygiene and tackling the menace of open defecation.
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