Kenya

Increased pupil enrolment taking toll on sanitation in Nakuru public schools

In Summary

  • The World Health Organization recommends a student-toilet ratio of 1:30 for boys and 1:25 toilets for girls.
  • Of the 620 registered government public primary schools in Nakuru County, 482 do not meet this requirement.
  • Nakuru County has a total of 9,655 toilets against a total student population of 323,447.
  • The acute shortage of toilets has forced children to miss some lessons especially after their mid-morning break as the queues at the few available toilets are too long.

By JOYCE KIMANI

In 2003, the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) under the leadership of President Mwai Kibaki introduced the free primary education.

This saw the school enrolment increase by about 7.3 million pupils who joined Class One.

The increased population meant that the government had to factor in different expenses including health and sanitation.

However, sanitation and school hygiene have received the least attention from the money disbursed to the counties and has posed one of the greatest problems in many schools.

Sanitation provisions in Kenya are currently under the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation.

PUPIL-TOILET RATIO

The World Health Organization recommends a pupil-toilet ratio of 1:30 for boys and 1:25 toilets for girls.

However, teachers are now rating it at 1:200 for girls and 1:230 for boys.

Nakuru County Health executive Samuel Mwaura says that the county has 620 public primary schools which have a population of 358,811 pupils of which 181,738 are boys and 177,073 are girls.

According to the official government data site, the Kenya Open Data portal, of the 620 registered government public primary schools in Nakuru County, 482 do not meet this requirement.

Nakuru County has a total of 9,655 toilets against a total student population of 323,447.

The data indicates that at Muslim Primary School, a toilet is shared by 382 pupils, the highest ration in the region.

At St Francis Primary School 165 pupils share a toilet while schools like Makongeni, Oljorai and Kibowen Komen have at least 145 students sharing a toilet.

COLLAPSING TOILETS

A visit to many of the schools depicted a sorry state of the toilets, with many on the verge of collapsing while in some cases there were no toilets at all forcing children to use the bushes.

Kenya Open Data indicates that they did not have data for 40 schools in the county raising fears that the said schools did not have the much needed facilities.

The acute shortage of toilets has forced children to miss some lessons especially after their mid-morning break as the queues at the few available toilets are too long.

A pupil has to wait for approximately ten minutes in a queue before getting a chance to use the toilet himself. This greatly affects class attendance.

The distance between the classrooms and the available toilets is also an issue.

In some schools, pupils cover a distance of about one kilometre to reach the toilet. This makes some of the children to wet themselves on the way.

This amounts to physiological torture for the children as most of them cannot even concentrate in class after that. They are forced to stand in the sun to dry, missing many lessons.

WATER SHORTAGE

At the same time, water shortage in many schools has compounded the problem of poor sanitation.

The fear of disease outbreaks has been a major challenge to schools in the area.

At Central Primary School, which sits on the main Naivasha sewerage pathway, cases of frequent bursts of the sewage line has seen raw waste flow into classrooms, especially during the rainy season.

In one such case, the Ministry of Public Health had to close down the school indefinitely when the sewage pipes burst.

The few available toilets in the area are in deplorable conditions.

Although many appear to have doors, majority of them are on the verge of collapsing.

There are several cases where the walls of the toilets have caved in while pupils are using the facilities.

At Milimani Primary School in Naivasha, a pupil was rushed to a hospital after a toilet collapsed while he was inside.

NO DOORS ON TOILETS

Many of the toilets do not have doors and pupils are forced to shield each other.

The fact that the toilets are not regularly cleaned and in some cases the roofs leak also makes the situation pathetic.

According to Esther Magere, a social worker in Nakuru County, girls in public primary schools are known to miss school during their menstrual period, saying that the toilets do not offer the privacy they need for them to change their sanitary towels.

“For a child to miss four or five days of school due to a natural occurrence is simply wanting. The girls claim that the toilet doors cannot shut or are broken and many boys in upper classes take advantage of this to try and peep when the girls are in the toilets,” said Ms Magere

Mlimani Primary School in Naivasha, a public school that hosts 2400 pupils was one of the major beneficiaries of the Economic Stimulus Project.

The school received Sh3.4 million from the PNU government part of which, according to the headteacher, Martin Apang’a, went into the construction of sixteen-door toilet cubicles and 21 washing points.

BOYS' URINALS

“The project also enabled us to get two boys’ urinals and we also renovated four more toilets. We were also able to launch a tree planting initiative and flower beds,” he added.

However, the failure by the Naivasha Water, Sewerage and Sanitation Company (Naivawasc) to supply water to the school has forced the 21 tap washing points to remain unused.

On one occasion, during the school parents’ day, parents irked by the lack of toilets raised Sh40 000 in an impromptu harambee for the construction of a new toilet block.

UNSTEADY WATER SUPPLY

The school management claims that the unsteady supply of water in the school by the company has forced them to resort to buying water from vendors.

The school currently has an outstanding bill of Sh90,000 owed to the water company.

Mr Mwaura admits that there are no enough toilets in the county adding that the free primary education fund does not have a component for addressing the toilets issue or any infrastructural development.

He says that during the 2013/2014 financial year the county government spent Sh4 million to construct pit latrines in six schools.

Mr Mwaura says that it is also very expensive to construct pit latrines due to the area’s topography as most parts of Nakuru are either rocky or have loose soil hence making the construction of pit latrine very expensive.