Published On: Tue, Jul 9th, 2019

Unhealthy refuse disposal in Nigeria public schools

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One of the hazardous refuse dumpsites in Kubwa…

By Kareem Abdulrasaq

The Nigeria public schools are no doubt battle with numbers of problems. These range from poor service delivery by the school authority, neglect by the government, the poor teaching techniques among the tutors, lack of effective social relation between the tutors and the pupils as well as the question of the teacher’s qualification. All these problems coupled with the poor school environment have crippled the educational delivery in public schools and therefore affecting pupils’ learning outcome.
A good environment is said to be crucial for effective learning process. The school environment which includes furnished structure, library, as well as clean and viable surroundings as in recent years faced with problem of improper culture of waste disposal. Most public secondary and primary schools today in Nigeria has become a dumping site. Although, the method of refuse disposal in schools vary from one school to the other but according to waste management specialist, waste can be disposed through recycling, burning, burying, sanitary landfill, control tipping, as well as thrown in the container to be disposed by refuse disposal agent. The question arises as to what method of disposal is embraced in our public schools. There are schools whose method of waste disposal is burning; others only dump the solid waste openly in backyard gardens or open space within and out the school premises and at the expense of the children being trained. These refuse are often left untouched and children found it suitable area to excrete and play.
However, the school attitude of leaving the waste unchecked made most of those places an epic center of refuse disposal. It has not only make the place an object of attraction to the residents in the area but has paved way for the nook and cranny to dump waste despite the presence of the students, their teachers and the location given little consideration to the health and environmental implication of their act. The question that comes to my mind is; who is to be blame? The government who is expected to provide the means of disposing waste and carry out sanitary inspection in schools, the school that created the chance for such act or the residence that saw easy means of disposing their waste knowing directly or indirectly the legal and health implication.

As residents would claim they should not be blame for the act, claiming that government is responsible for illegal refuse disposal in most states. Apart from the fact that government did not made available refuse container and put in place effective and efficient waste disposal method where should they be sending their waste. The clean and green who handled the waste being disposed in the state had not been able to satisfy the need of everybody. The only way most people thought of; is dumping wherever they see. But there are other ways by which this can be done without causing difficulty to anyone. One of these is to engage the service of the private waste disposal agents. This option is deemed hilarious by the people given the money involved and considering the present country economic hardship. Most of them claimed ‘’one has to pay for everything in this country; can’t government just response to the situation and improve the capacity of the waste management agents’’ said an angry woman.
Leaving this culture of waste disposal as it is today in most of the public schools can cause environmental hazard and threaten pupils’ health and safety. Solid waste that is improperly disposed namely, agricultural remnants, food leftovers, plastic bags, tin cans, ash and packaging, such as cartons and used jonya sacks, nylon, cloths, rotten fruit, expire drugs, among others result in a number of problems. It causes a breeding ground for pathogenic microorganisms and vectors of disease. It also causes a public nuisance due to unsightliness and bad smell as well as contamination of surrounding soil, and surface water.
However, since it was not only the school that is making use of the dumping site, dumping of hazardous waste (solid or semi-solid Substances) such as obsolete pesticide (dieldrin, DDT), florescent, gas cylinder, pampers, used menstrual materials, kitchen left-over, papers, long-used electronics, used empty cans, empty packages, toiletries trash, broken furniture as well as dispose wears in the school premises are inevitable. While some of these wastes are toxic, ignitable, corrosive and reactive, others are infectious and explosive. Hence, they can create fire hazards, physical hazards and could have poisoning effects.
These wastes often litter around due to lack of proper intervention. We need to understand that, it is improper to see school as refuse disposal unit in the city. People should commend the effort of the government and desist from this unlawful behaviour. The impact on the students is disastrous and suicidal, especially on the pupils learning process. Apart of the air pollution, parent who saw the refuse had their ward withdrawn from the school while other pupils are discouraged from learning. This created a resistant and passive attitude toward learning. Such sordict act needs to be prevented by the authorities concern.
Evidence shows that there are many factors that have made most public schools premise a refuse disposing center in their area. These include lack of access to the school public bin, neglect by the school authority, lack of proper orientation about the environmental and health impact of the site, non availability of the security operative in most of the public schools, poor sanitary policy in public schools, lack of proper inspection of environment of public schools by the ministry and other authority concern. These have created unhealthy environment dangerous to carry out day to day activities in the public schools.
There is no doubt, proper wastes disposal encouraged student ability to learn and improve their enthusiasm toward school. It also reduce treatment for all illness such as diarrhea, cholera, consequently reducing cost or money spend on children health, it enhances productivity of the students and boost school environmental quality. Therefore, informing people of how proper waste management can bring about improvement in environmental quality and quality of the school welfare should be should be major priority and task of the government, NGOs, as well as the stakeholder concerns.
It is therefore recommended that the refuse should be buried weekly by the students to be directed and supervised by the school management. This can be done during labour period in the various schools. The state ministry of environment and ministry of education and other relevant agencies should ensure continuous and proper inspection of the school environment. It believed that clean environment is part of the discipline and attitude a teacher need to imbed in the pupils. The fact that majority of the pupils in the public school came from poor home and cannot rise against this unlawful should not be seen as an opportunity to denial them their needs. These children are entitled to a free and friendly environment like their colleagues in private schools.
The teachers should lead by example and sure a conducive environment for effective learning process. It is their action and inaction children emulate and exhibit outside the school premises. Also the security guard in the school should be made effective and be directed to ensure proper monitoring of the school premises. Arrest should be made if necessary. This is to prevent people living at the surrounding area to see the school compound as refuse disposal center. Grass should also be cut short to prevent unwanted creature like snake, scorpion, etc and government should make the ministry of environment more effective by improving its capacity and well funded. The civil society organization in the states should also step up and rise against this challenge. They need to carry out advocacy on the proper way of managing waste in our public schools. Seminal should be organized for both the teachers and the students on the best practice of the proper hygiene and various methods waste disposal. It is belief this will have a positive impact on the life of the children and improve their academic performance.

Kareem Abdulrasaq, Research Officer, Grassroots Development and Advocacy Centre, Ilorin, Kwara State

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