By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
“Bringing water to school all the time was a task for pupils in our school. Our teachers made it compulsory for every pupil to bring water to school. The water was to ensure that the children wash their hands at all times and to also drink when thirsty”, 8 year old primary five pupil, Ikechukwu Okaforadi, said.
He said the compulsion was due to lack of water and toilet facilities in the school.
Speaking on the hardship faced by the pupils during that period, Okaforadi said there was so much hardship due to lack of portable water in the community.
“Our parents used to trek long distances to the next community to get water for domestic use. It is that same water that they gave us to bring to school to drink and wash ourselves whenever we defected.
“I have two younger ones in the junior classes, and I used to carry their own water because they can’t carry anything. Our house is very far from the school. At times our father dropped us but when he is not around, I trek with my brothers to the school, carrying their water and book”.
When asked if the water is as clean as what they have now, he said the water is nothing compared to what they are enjoying. He said the water from the stream had small particles inside. But what they are taking now in the school has no particles.
Anuli community school is one of the schools in Ezenifite community in Aguata local government area of Anambra state, enjoying portable water and modern toilet facilities courtesy of United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF) and European Union ((EU).
The Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), programme which was done in partnership with the state government was aimed at providing succour to the community and the school.
Our reporter who was in the state to access the impact of the project observed that the pupils were enjoying new flush toilet facilities and bore-holes which has become there source of portable water.
He also observed that the facilities were kept clean by the pupils.
Speaking on the need for WASH, UNICEF WASH Specialist, Mainga M. Banda said lack of WASH has a lot of effect on school attendance or educational performance of children.
She expressed worry that it might force pupils to be absent from school due to diarrheal disease.
Banda said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2014 estimated that 194 million school days would be gained due to less diarrheal disease if targets for sanitation were met.
While quoting (Sommer, 2010; McMahon et al., 2011); she added that girls’ absence will increase due to difficulty of managing menstrual hygiene, which she said was owing to lack of appropriate WASH facilities, without which many girls are likely to miss school while they menstruate. “Without the appropriate facilities, girls cannot adequately manage their menstrual hygiene, resulting in particular in fear of embarrassment or teasing associated with unpleasant odours or stains”.
She further said lack of proper WASH facilities can affect pupils school attendance if the children will trek distance to fetch water more than one trip per day.
Also speaking, another pupil, Amaka Joel, said “our parents are the happiest people seeing us coming to school without water. There were days we had to stay home because our mother finished the remaining water in the house and could not go to the stream early the next day to fetch water because she was ill.
“The only thing we do now is to dress and come to school where we have available water to use.
“We no longer go in to the bush to defecate. We have newly built toilets with flush water system and tap to wash our hands after usage. Things are very easy for us now more than before”.
On her part, head teacher of the school, Nnebuchi Francisca said the project has given them a new life. “We are very happy and grateful to UNICEF and EU for this wonderful development in our community. This project means that our children have portable water and any water related disease will not affect them. Years ago we suffered so much, but now we can smile and enjoy the water.”
Speaking on water related diseases before the WASH project; Francisca said diarrhea was a common disease among the children.
“Most of our children suffered diarrhea before this project came to this school. This is because most of them eat without washing their hands. Some of them pick fruits from the bush and eat without washing their hands. These were some of the reasons that made the school to ensure that every child bring water to school.
“With the current development by UNICEF and EU, we have all the facilities on ground so there is no need for anyone to bring water to school. The only thing we are doing now is to ensure that the children comply with the rules of proper hygiene. So far there are no complains and we are happy with the progress.”