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Improving school attendance through water, sanitation

Amara Okonkwo, 13, was considered a truant in school due to her absence or lateness most times.

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She was late or, on some occasions, not present at all because of the long distance she walked every morning to fetch water for her home.

A primary 5 pupil of Anuli Community School, Ezenifite in Aguata Local Government Area, Okonkwo, now a member of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Club in her school said, the provision of water in her school and the community has improved her school attendance.

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“I don’t come late to school again because I don’t have to go far away to get water and I am no more absent from classes. We now have water close to our house which we can easily fetch in the morning for the house before coming to school. And we also have water.”

She said before the water facility was provided for them, pupils bring water to school for use—both for drinking and other usage.

Another pupil, Okeke Emmanuel, who also belongs to the WASH club said their roles as a member of the club is to ensure that pupils make adequate use of the water without wasting or dirtying the environment.

“We monitor the use of the facility during break so that none of us will damage anything. The water provision has helped us because many of us were coming late to school and many girls used to be absent especially during dry season,” he said.

Some school pupils using tiptap for   washing hands after using toilte facility in their school

Water, sanitation and hygiene

According to reports by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund, some 2.1 billion people worldwide, lack access to safe, readily available water at home while 4.5 billion lack safely managed sanitation as a result.

Every year, 361,000 children under five years of age die due to diarrhoea. Poor sanitation and contaminated water are also linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, dysentery, hepatitis A, and typhoid.

The Multiple Indicator Survey (MICS) conducted by the government of Nigeria in 2016/17, indicated that about 40 percent of households and 19 million people in rural areas walked long distances to source unsafe water from lakes, streams and river.

At a two-day media dialogue on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) organized by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in Awka, Anambra state, UNICEF WASH specialist, Mainga Moono Banda in a presentation, “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Situation in Nigeria” said, “Pupil absence in school is due to diarrheal disease.”

Banda added that data from World Health Organisation revealed that an estimated 194 million school days would be gained due to less diarrheal disease if the SDG 2030 targets for clean water and sanitation were met.

Girls face difficulties in managing their menstrual hygiene in school dur to lack of appropriate facilities for water, sanitation and hygiene. They are more likely to miss school while they see their period.

“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,” Banda said.

Some pupils are also absent due to the need to fetch drinking water from long distances, thereby leading to missed classes. Some children make more than one trip a day to collect water.

WASH facilities funded by the European Union and coordinated by UNICEF in select communities across Nigeria have helped bring relief to Ezenifite.

The installation of hand pump boreholes and toilet facilities in the community and within the school means more children are able to attend school.

A pupil walks into one of the toilet facilities provided by European Union and UNICEF

“Neat and clean”

Excited pupil, Okafor Ozioma, said she is comfortable coming to school now unlike before when she is in her monthly flow since the provision of the facilities in her school.

“Everywhere is looking neat and clean because we now have water and toilets to use. For the girls, we have a place to change and feel good. The boys also have their own. We also have “tip tap” in front of our classrooms where we wash our hands whenever we need to,” she said.

The school headmistress Onyebuchi Francesca said, the EU/UNICEF  provided for them good clean water and toilet facilities—that is integrated pump flush of five rooms each for both male and female making it a total of 10 toilets.

Onyebuchi added that since the toilets have been built the enrolment of pupils  and attendance to school has increased tremendously adding that we can see that some parents are scared of contributing money for such projects.

She said before the facilities were provided they faced a lot of dangers because the children used to defecate in the nearby bushes as a result of the collapse of the pit latrines. 


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