Chukwuma Stella Nwakaego.
After attending his 11 am to 1 pm lecture, Femi, a 300l student of Sociology department at Adekunle Ajasin University was desperate to use the restroom – only to find that it had been locked. His friends laughed at his misfortune, but the situation was hardly a joking matter for him. He had no choice but to find a bush nearby and relieve himself.
The experience was far from ideal, and it left Femi feeling frustrated and humiliated. He was surprised that the restroom was not accessible to the students, especially since it was well-maintained and had adequate facilities. He couldn’t help but wonder if this is the mode of operations that goes on in the 21st-century university as it is properly called.
Poor sanitation and inadequate water supply in Nigeria have been an issue for a long time, and it’s led to the troubling practice of open defecation in many areas. Unfortunately, this is not just limited to homes, offices, and marketplaces; it has spread to schools in the Southwestern part of Nigeria, including Adekunle Ajasin University in Akungba Akoko.
This lack of access to adequate sanitation and water has had serious health implications, particularly for children. Without access to safe, clean water and proper sanitation facilities, children are exposed to a much higher risk of contracting illnesses and diseases.
Akungba Akoko students have raised an alarm over frequent open defecation, a damaging practice that infringes on citizens’ rights to proper sanitation, increases the risk of illnesses and diseases, reduces school attendance, and pollutes the environment.
According to a WHO study, a staggering 673 million people around the world are still practicing open defecation, with India topping the list, followed by Nigeria with 123 million people.
The United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF also reported that 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria. 61 percent aged between 6-11 attend primary schools, while the rest stay away due to a lack of basic facilities in schools. The FCT Water Board revealed that 50% of primary and secondary schools in Nigeria don’t have toilets, leading to 87,000 deaths of children under 5 from diarrhea annually.
Mustapha*, a 400L Industrial Chemistry student, avoids the public toilets on campus and prefers those at nearby banks because they are kept clean and always have a reliable source of water. “I don’t need to worry about getting water to flush when I’m finished – it’s always there,” he narrated via an interview.
However, there were times when the banks were closed and Mustapha needed to use the restroom. In such cases, he would visit the nearby Chicken Republic restaurant. While it wasn’t ideal, Mustapha found that the toilets in the restaurant were usually clean and well-maintained.
For Kemi Adesola, a 200-level student, using the public toilets on campus was out of the question. She was terrified of the chance of contracting a toilet-borne illness, so she resorted to open defecation instead.
Kemi prefers open defecation over public toilets in the school due to a previous experience with a toilet-related illness. She is “always careful of the toilets” she uses when pressed, in order to avoid a repeat of that experience.
Kemi’s experience was far from pleasant, but it had become a necessary precaution for her. She was determined to take all the necessary steps to avoid contact with any potential illnesses, even if it meant using a less-than-ideal alternative.
“It wasn’t an issue, since many of the students were accustomed to using bushes and dumping sites outside of the home. This behavior was not an issue when done in school, and was simply a representation of how the students had been brought up,” said Obatayo Emmanuel, a student of AUD Community Primary School located along King’s Place.
There is an history to open defecation- Expert
Olatumile Omoyemi, an environmental health officer in Akungba Akoko, questioned the usefulness of providing toilets without water to maintain them. She stated that while the government had made provisions for toilets, they had not made any provisions for the supply of water to keep them clean and functioning.
“In AAUA, the contractor had said water would be provided for the toilets, but when I arrived, there was none. I asked why and was told there was no water. Why build toilets without water? How will they be maintained? Maintenance and access to water seem to be the major issues with Adekunle Ajasin University’s toilets.”
Also speaking about the Akungba community, the environmental health officer also narrated that there is a little history of open defecation in the land.
“In this area, people did not have toilets in their homes due to the abundance of bushes and goats that could eat their waste. However, when a university enforced a law requiring people to have toilets or face sanctions, most people took action and built toilets.”
Mrs. Olatumile noted that the health environmental team was working to reduce open defecation by educating people on the dangers and benefits of having toilets. They had already reached 60-70% of people in Akungba and Akoko and were still working to make the area open defecation free.
“We do sensitize them on open defecation, and make them understand that when they have toilets, they will be free from certain diseases,” said Mrs. Olatumile, noting that the health environmental team within the community was trying their best to curb the ill practices.