By Tosin Kolade
The health of pupils of LEA Primary School in Nyanya-Gwandara, Nasarawa State is in danger as more than 740 of them share only two toilets.
Mr Akwe Omadefu, the Headmaster of the school made the revelation in Nyanya-Gwandara when a team of officials of the Network of Water and Sanitation (NEWSAN) visited the school, as part of their activities to commemorate the 2018 Menstrual Hygiene Management Day.
He said that the dearth of toilets and a perimeter fence around the school had negatively affected school attendance and pupils’ enrolment.
“You can see the surroundings; the school is not fenced and we have been trying all we can to make the state government to come to our aid and fence the school.
“When this done, we will be able to control the movement of pupils in the school. This is very important because some of the pupils do not usually return to school after the end of the break time.
“We have only two toilets here: one for males and the other for the female pupils. We don’t have potable water; the school authorities have to buy water from water vendors,’’ he said.
The head teacher said that the scarcity of toilets in the school had somewhat promoted open defecation around the school premises, adding that this explained why the surrounding area of the school was dirty and foul-smelling.
Omadefu solicited the provision of toilets and perimeter fence as well as teaching and learning materials for the school, saying that this would encourage the pupils to stay in school and face their studies.
The National Coordinator of NEWSAN, Mr Benson Attah, who bemoaned the situation in the school, said that the school was in dire need of facilities that would encourage learning and discourage open defecation.
Attah said that it was saddening to note that such a school existed, despite its proximity to Abuja, the nation’s capital.
He said that the group would solicit the assistance of donor agencies and other stakeholders for the school.
Ms. Gift Eke, NEWSAN Secretary in the FCT, said that the group was carrying our assessment of schools in and round the FCT to create public awareness of their needs and solicit the support of donor agencies for efforts to improve the state of the schools.
She underscored the need to give priority attention to the provision of basic water and sanitation facilities for the school so as to boost pupils’ enrolment and school attendance.
Besides, Eke said that the group had sensitised the school children to the importance of menstrual hygiene management, saying that the pupils had been equipped with basic menstrual hygiene skills.
Eke, however, called for the provision of free sanitary pads for schoolgirls, saying that the proposal was aimed at boosting the school attendance and wellbeing of the girl child.
“We are advocating for the provision of free sanitary pads for girls of school age. Since condoms are given to people free of charge and are available everywhere, why can’t the government provide free sanitary pads for schoolgirls as well?” she asked.
However, some cynics have expressed reservations about the proposed provision of free sanitary pads to school girls, saying that it would be difficult to ascertain the quality and wholesomeness of such menstrual pads.
Mr Dayo Ajileye, a civil servant, said that since sanitary pads were aptly considered as personal hygiene kits, the free distribution of sanitary pads should be strictly monitored to check any plot to contaminate the reproductive health of the potential beneficiaries.
He said that in checking such sharp practices by unscrupulous persons, deliberate efforts should be made to assign some recognised agencies or associations to oversee the manufacture and distribution of the sanitary pads that would be distributed to schoolgirls free of charge.