Open defecation soars in schools

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Data released by the coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) has revealed that public schools in the two hundred and seventy-five (275) districts had topped the list of open defecation in the country.

This, according to the NGOs, was as result of the lack of toilet facilities in these schools.

The NGOs pointed out that the 2017 EMIS report by the Ghana Education Service (GES) showed that more than 7,400 public schools out of 21,438 do not have toilet facilities, meaning over two million Ghanaian children in those schools alone are compelled to resort to defecating in unorthodox open spaces mostly within the immediate surroundings of their schools.

Similarly, out of the 9,604 private basic schools sampled, it emerged that over 1,631 do not have toilet facilities, rendering an estimated 430,000 pupils in private schools to defecate outside a toilet during school hours.

The NGOs said the open defecation league table was part of strategies adopted by government and development partners to fight the menace.

According to them, the significance of the table was not geared towards naming and shaming district assemblies but to broaden and increase stakeholders’ efforts aimed at achieving open defecation free status.

The disturbing development had compelled the NGOs to urge government and the Ghana Education Service to step up efforts to ensure that basic schools across the country have decent toilet facilities.

At a press briefing in Accra yesterday on the perennial lack of toilet facilities in Ghanaian schools, the Vice President of the Coalition, Mr Attah Arhin, said the absence of toilets posed health threats to school children, teachers and other educational workers.

Mr Arhin said the practice lead to infections such as intestinal worms, diarrhoea, cholera, malnutrition and stunting among the school children. Besides, it also leads to absenteeism among school children.

He added that an investment of about US $147million would be required to provide decent toilets in the remaining 35 per cent public basic schools.

“CONIWAS believes that this is an amount government can easily raise to address this unfortunate situation even in a single year. We are convinced that if government decides to prioritise this, every basic school in Ghana will have access to a clean and decent toilet facility within one year,” he said.

Mr Arhin noted further that while providing toilets in schools, care must also be taken to ensure that consideration is given to issues of gender and disability so that no child is left behind, adding that, the broad assumptions that everybody was capable of using a standardised toilet facility were false in many circumstances.

He said there was the need, therefore, to adhere to the minimum standards for toilet facilities in schools.

Source : Freeman KORYEKPOR AWLESU