As part of the activities that marked the recently celebrated World Toilet Day, the Bill Gates Sanitation Project Team (BGSPT) visited the Chukuku LEA Primary School in Kuje Area Council, of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), where stakeholders reiterated the importance of proper hygiene to disease prevention and healthy living.
Peoples Daily gathered that the project will target the poorest and most vulnerable children, caregivers and parents in Abuja, Nigeria (as well as in India and Bangladesh).
And already, some schools and communities in Kuje, Gwagwalada, and Bwari area councils of the FCT have been selected for the project. About 310 pupils between ages 3 to 7 and their teachers were present at the event; each pupil went home with a new pair of footwear each.
According to the Project Manager, Mrs. Ayobisi Osuntusa, the project which has a two and half years duration aims to develop an evidence-based and multi-media intervention for the promotion of positive behaviors related to sanitation and hygiene in the developing world.
Osuntusa, who spoke while delivering an opening remark at the occasion, noted that the visit was part of the Gates Team’s in Abuja through the Sesame Workshop, Nigeria.
She reiterated that the use of toilets, wearing of footwear while using the toilet and proper hand washing with soap at critical times especially after using the toilet are very important to disease prevention and healthy living.
She further stressed that such habits ensure that germs contained in human feces are not transferred to food or spread through contact.
In his Keynote address, Head of Information and Outreach Programme, Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), Joe Ukairo, observed that many children find school toilets unclean, unpleasant and unsafe, and often try to hang on all day until they get home.
He noted that the girl-child is more affected, as the boys can afford to do it (defecate) anywhere but the girl-child in her God given nature requires privacy to wee or poo.
He adds; “This has led to reduction in girl-child school attendance, which is often compounded by school staff restricting access to toilets.
“Some schools, the few available toilets are locked up for “Staff Use Only”. Children cannot hold on for long and when they are forced by non-availability or accessibility to hold on for long, they develop bladder and bowel related health/ medical conditions.
“Hence, there must be safe, affordable and accessible toilet for the staff, pupils and community at large.”
Also, Ukairo submitted that simple ventilated household toilets built with locally available and affordable materials provides good examples of the safe, affordable sanitation options available to peri-urban schools and local communities in meeting the challenges posed by open defecation.
He pointed out that hygiene and behavioural change education and the use of footwear among vulnerable children are critical in the formation of proper attitude of all pupils.
“All those who are school children today will be adults in the near future and by focusing on children today; nurturing and shaping their knowledge and behaviour, will undoubtedly translate into a stronger and healthier future generations,” he said.
He however disclosed that AEPB is working assiduously with schools in the FCT through the establishment of Environment Awareness Club in schools to inculcate healthy hygiene habits among pupils.
Not left out, the Head Teacher, LEA Primary School, Chukuku, Kuje, Mrs. Elizabeth Tokura, expressed her appreciation to Bill Gates and Sesame Workshop, Nigeria, for choosing the school for the programme, in spite of its remote location.
She said that almost every pupil in the school now puts on footwear as a result of knowledge gained by the pupils when they participated in the formative testing of prototype materials; and by giving them new footwear today, it will help in sustaining the acquired habit.
“It has never happened like this before and I strongly believe that the pupils have been thoroughly equipped, challenged and blessed by this programme,” she expressed.
Peoples Daily reports that the programme featured special songs and play-let by pupils of Chukuku LEA Primary School, showcasing their knowledge about the dangers of open defecation and benefits of using footwear and hand washing.
It was leant that the pupils gained knowledge about open defecation and other proper hygiene practice through participating in formative testing of prototype materials developed by Sesame Workshop for the project.