Lack of toilet facilities at Government Junior Secondary School, Afon in Asa local council area of Kwara State, forces students to defecate in the open. They do this inside a snakes-dominated bush surrounding the school. Therein, snake bite is a possibility — a situation of life and death — but it remains the only option.
A 12-year-old student of the school, Hameed Adam, would have been in past memory had he not escaped a snake bite with a fragment of faeces in his anus. “I even forgot my underwear,” the young boy told WikkiTimes as he eyed the route leading to the scene.
“It was in April and it was actually after the break,” he recalled. “Then I was in J.S.S 2. The snake came when I was doing it, so I quickly ran to my class.”
Adam explained how fear engulfed a teacher he narrated the incident to. “I saw the fear in his eyes,” he claimed. Although he was not happy defecating in the bush, he had no choice since his school lacks toilet facilities.
Stench oozing from the open bush disturbs both students and teachers. But they all reap what they sow.
“Even our teachers use the bush as well, they don’t beat us if they see us there,” Adam explained.
Snakes are not alien to the school environs, WikkiTimes learnt. In fact, the trees in the school outnumbered the students. The school is more of a wildlife home than a learning centre. The situation of the school is a vivid picture of many Nigerian schools.
THEY CLEAN ANUS WITH LEAVES AND PAPERS
Adam is not the only one suffering from this plight. Narrating her experience, Kabeerah Abdulfatai, 14, could not tell her mother that her dream school is synonymous with a zoo where snakes bite looms. She prays for the government’s intervention.
“We don’t have any toilets, we are using bushes. Our teachers are aware, we want the government to build another toilet for us. We use paper or leaves to clean our anus, we don’t have water. Sometimes, I felt like leaving the school or playing truancy,” she said.
Shehu Barakah, another student frowned at open defecation, but she had no choice. Getting a place to “do it” inside the bush is another thing as everywhere is “littered with stools.”
Disease does not excuse the innocence of the students, they pay for what they had priced.
“Some students often vomit in the class after defecating in the bush,” said Peter Blessing, a new female student at the school. “It was the principal that normally rushed them to faraway clinics where some of them would later be diagnosed with fever.”
Leaking roofs is another eyesore of the school. Rainfall is not a blessing to the students as it interrupts their studies. Findings by this paper show that the school has more than 500 students presently.
‘NOTHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT’ – Principal
Uthman Moshood Atanda, the principal of the school, said a renovation done by the government did not touch some of the worst facilities in the school.
“When I came to the school in 2019, it was nothing to write home about,” he said. “For like three years now, no one can use the toilet and that was how I met it. I am tired of logging complaints, the community is aware of it too. The water tank in the school is not helping the situation at all, we only enjoy it on rainy days — no rain, no water. The only borehole we have in the school is not functioning, even the local government has repaired it twice.”
Using his hands to wave away outgrown weed, which had covered the abandoned lavatory, the principal cautions one could not move beyond a certain point because harmful animals could be found therein.
His words: “The front view of the toilet is very bushy and even dangerous because the whole place has different holes. It is a pit toilet, we can’t go beyond this place anymore as you can see. From this back view of the toilet, you can see it has sunk.
“During our last inter-house sports, we spent more than N37,000 to buy drugs in hospital. The pit latrine is direct and can cause health hazards as snakes might easily enter into it. The non-availability of a standard toilet leads to truancy and poor academic results.”
EXPERT WEIGHS IN
Calling for urgent attention, AbdulMojeed Sadare, an Ogun-based public health expert, said open defecation has always been a serious challenge to any developing nation like Nigeria.
“The unavailability and inaccessibility of proper sanitation (toilet and hand-washing facilities) is a major cause of open defecation and this has both environmental and health implications such as vector and water-borne diseases,” the expert noted.
Speaking further, Sadare stated that he believed that media and civil society organizations need to launch a strong campaign in a bid to achieve a state of hygiene that is free from any form of environmental pollution.
“Intensive advocacy should be given to the masses at large by sensitizing them on the prevalence and dangers of open defecation, buttressing the need to change this anti-social behaviour at all means. Rural communities need a well-managed sanitation system and the government has the burden to carry this,” he added.
When contacted through a number (Martina Azubike — as identified by the Truecaller app) made available on its website, Kwara State Universal Basic Education Board, claimed WikkiTimes had phoned the wrong number. This was after he had listened to the questions.
“Are you sure of whom you want to call?” Azubike quarried before ending the call. However, she never responded to subsequent calls.
When confronted with our findings, Alhaja Monsurat Kanike, the spokesperson to the Commissioner of Education, told WikkiTimes that she could not say anything on the issues because she is “a civil servant.”
DESPITE UBEC GRANT, KWARA SCHOOLS STILL LAG BEHIND
In mid-2021, the Kwara State government disclosed that it had accessed N700 billion in grants from the Universal Basic Education (UBEC) to finance infrastructure projects in 600 schools that are in bad condition.
“The projects include statewide wholesale remodelling of schools, construction of new classrooms, rehabilitation of existing ones, construction of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, information and communication facilities, and training and retraining of teachers,” the state governor stressed in this report.
Even with this fund, Government Junior Secondary School, Afon among other schools in Kwara could not access well-built toilets, thus open defecation thrives unchecked.