A SURVEY conducted on public schools across the country, has revealed that about 10,000 do not have any toilet facilities.
The number is half of the about 20,000 total number of public schools in Ghana, apart from the thousands of privately owned schools that may not have.
This revelation was made at a dissemination workshop held on Thursday, on National Minimum Standards and Implementation Models for WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) in schools in the country.
The dissemination workshop was held to make known to stakeholders the validated report on new minimum standards for school sanitation facilities agreed by the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the implementation models to be used for them.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic after the workshop, Mrs Kate Opoku, the Director for School Health Education Programme (SHEP), GES, said it was to verify the state of WASH facilities in schools across the country, that consultants were contracted to do a needs assessment of all public schools in the country.
“And from the results that they gave, it came out that about 10,000 schools have no WASH facilities countrywide. With those who have, the conditions were not good. For schools that don’t have any facilities, children are forced to use the bush,” she said.
National Minimum Standard
“Most of the toilet facilities do not have any hand washing facilities. We expect that when the child enters or visits the toilet, he comes back to wash the hands before whatever he is going to do, and we expect the facility to be near where the toilet is,” the SHEP Director stated.
According to the agreed minimum standards, facilities must comprise toilets, urinals and hand washing facilities among others.
Mrs Opoku however bemoaned that water was one of the major problems affecting the provision of sanitary facilities in the schools.
“In the schools they will have pipelines laid alright but no water is flowing through and even if there is water they have to pay for it. Schools lock up facilities because of their inability to pay.
“Sometimes, girls, because of these WASH facilities will not come to school when they are in their period. They don’t have anywhere to change when they feel wet. So what do you do. You would rather prefer to stay at home.
“If for one week - five days, that child is in that condition, and the whole week a new topic is being treated in mathematics for example, it means she has missed that whole topic.
Cost of facilities
Touching on how much it would cost to construct facilities for the schools that do not have, Mrs Opoku said each facility comprising separate urinals for males and females, toilets for teachers, boys and girls, and a hand washing facility including a reservoir, would cost not less than GH¢18,000 as suggested by the consultants.
She however noted that that was lower, compared with the quotation of US$18,000 given by the UNICEF WASH specialist in Ghana.
When asked why so public schools had been built without sanitation facilities, Mrs Opoku explained that the school infrastructure, especially those built long ago, were normally put up by Local Government (Assemblies) and those infrastructure were mostly put up without sanitation facilities or inadequate facilities.
“You are in Ghana; when they say they’ve built a school you only go and find classrooms and they will put one room in between,” she said.
Speaking to the same issue with the Daily Graphic in an interview on Friday, Mr Harold Esseku, one of the consultants, put the number of schools without toilets between 9,000 and 11,000.
He said the situation had arisen, because until about five years ago there was no policy on ensuring facilities were provided when school blocks were built and so those that were built before then do not have.
The way forward
In her closing remarks, Mrs Cynthia Bosumtwi-Sam, Curriculum and Research Development Division, GES who chaired the workshop, called for effective collaboration amongst the ministers of the three key ministries - Water Resources Works and Housing, Local Government and Rural Development and Education to ensure water available at all public schools.
She also suggested that different toilet models such as the VIP and others that do not require water must be used in the absence of water, while training must be organised to achieve behavioural change. BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
Source: The Daily Graphic, April 2, 2014