Epidemic looms in Lagos schools where students lack water, use dirty toilets

10th April 2023

dirty toilet

By Sodiq Ojuroungbe

As COVID-19 raged across the globe, bringing with it deaths and lockdowns, measures were put in place to curb its spread as well as that of other diseases. Among the public health guidelines enforced by the Lagos State Government was the provision of handwashing facilities, especially in public schools. Three years down the line, SODIQ OJUROUNGBE reports that some public schools in Lagos have not only jettisoned the life-saving measure, but have become custodians of disease-breeding toilets that lack basic water supply.

Daily, before leaving home, Tolani Adeoye (not real name), ensures she defecates to avoid making use of the toilet tucked on the far side of the sprawling premises of the Ajumoni Senior Secondary School in Lagos.

The senior secondary school student said she dreads going close to the three toilets available for use due to their sordid, filthy state.

For four years, Adeoye religiously followed the same routine to avoid using the toilets, which have also been abandoned by most of the students as they reek of urine and excreta.

Giving a graphic description of the school restrooms, Adeoye told our correspondent that the toilets’ ceramic bowls were always filled with urine and faeces, and smelled horribly due to lack of water to flush them.

She lamented that despite having a cleaner, whose duty was to ensure that the toilets stay clean, they remained in a deplorable state.

The teenager claimed that just like her, other students detest using the school toilets and would rather wait till they get home to use the restroom.

She said, “The toilets are so bad that I will never ever enter them. Even if you are passing by, the stench will make you hold your breath and run away. The condition is very deplorable despite having cleaners that are paid to keep them clean. I am not sure they go near the toilets.”

Sadly, this scenario is not peculiar to Ajumoni Senior Secondary School.

PUNCH Healthwise, in the course of carrying out this report, discovered that several public schools in the state have a binding factor – poor sanitation and low hygiene level.

It is expected that to maintain good hygiene in schools, students must have access to running water to flush toilets and thoroughly wash their hands to ward off infection.

However, this is not obtainable in the schools visited, as the students lamented that they lack decent toilets and access to running water.

They said the toilets are either blocked or dirty due to the unavailability of water, noting that on most days, they are left with no choice but to defecate in the open.

Nigeria’s odorous reputation for widespread open defecation is no news.

The World Health Organisation and United Nations Children’s Fund Joint Monitoring Programme identified Nigeria as one of the countries with high prevalence of OD practices in the world, where 25 per cent to 50 per cent of its citizens engage in it.

According to the WHO/UNICEF JMP on Water Supply, OD is the practice of relieving oneself in fields, bushes, bodies of water and other spaces.

Target 6.2 of the UN-SDGs mandates countries to end open defecation and provide access to sufficient and even-handed sanitation and hygiene, especially to women and girls prone to socioeconomic and cultural risks.

The WHO recommends that an individual is supposed to use at least 15 litres of water, in times of a disease outbreak, to prevent spread, while girls may require more, especially during their monthly menstrual period.

 According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the absence of basic sanitation facilities can result in the contamination of the environment by human waste.

It stated, “Without proper sanitation facilities, waste from infected individuals can contaminate a community’s land and water, increasing the risk of infection for other individuals.

“Proper waste disposal can slow the infection cycle of many disease-causing agents.

“Without proper sanitation facilities, people often have no choice but to live in and drink water from an environment contaminated with waste from infected individuals, thereby putting themselves at risk for future infection.”

Behind the facade

While most of the Lagos public schools might boast of an outward clean environment, PUNCH Healthwise reports that behind the facade lie sordid toilets that are both eyesores and dehumanizing in outlook.

It was gathered that the poor sanitary conditions in the schools are not unconnected to overstretched infrastructure.

An investigation conducted by our correspondent showed that the poor state of the toilets poses serious public health concerns as the students cannot answer the call of nature.

Apart from poor sanitary conditions, our correspondent discovered that toilets in schools visited, lacked water supply and basic hand washing items.


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