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Nasarawa: Interventions in basic education

Menstruation is an aspect of female health which is often clouded in secrecy because it is considered the dirty part of a woman’s life. Thus when a young girl attains the age of puberty and she starts her first menstrual cycle, it often looks like her life has come to an end.

This is because first menstruation is considered something not for discussions in the open, and so there is lack of education to adequately prepare girls ahead of this “woman business” which is considered not to be discussed to the hearing of men.

One basic thing every girl needs when menstruating is access to clean water, clean toilet and sanitation for good menstrual management. If a girl’s environment is beret of this basics, then it becomes hard for her to go to school or even step out of her home for other social engagement for fear of ridicule, shame, stigmatisation and even taunting by boys and even other girls.

For young Ozioma Okafor, a 12 year old a pupil of St. Pius Anwuli Community Primary School at Ezinifite in Aguata Local Government Areas of Anambra State, menstruation had always being a nightmare and often she misses’ school during these periods.

Before now, whenever her menstruation comes, Ozioma has to stay away from school because of lack of clean water to do her ‘’business’’ and also lack of toilet to change her pad and clean up. Ozioma is one of the numerous girls of school age who often stay away from school for up to three or more days until their menses stops. At times like these, girls have to always stay out of school so they can take care of themselves during this period. They often miss out of academics which affects their educational performances.

This has being the plight of young school girls in Ezinifite community and girls living in various communities which lack clean water and constructed latrines., which is called ‘’pour toilets;; , because of the water water is poured after each use.

Ozioma is also one of the 300 Environmental Health Club Ambassadors at Anuli Community Primary School and she said that she is full of life now as she never misses classes again whenever her menses comes. There is clean water and pour toilet for me to change and clean up, she told Nigerian Pilot in an interview.

Amid giggles, she said, ‘’I get to school before 7 am everyday as a Sanitation Ambassador, unlike when I used to miss school for some days every month. My teacher gave me pad from the first aid box when I saw my period, I washed up inside the toilet and I feel very comfortable after washing up and I felt better and I am not ashamed to do it.’’

Ezinifite village in Aguata Local Government Government Area, in Anambra State and St Paul’s Community School now have clean water and pour toilets for both boys and girls and this helped to increase school attendance among school children and especially the girls.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in partnership with the European Union, EU, have sited boreholes and pour toilets in the community and in educational institutions and now it is less stressful for girls answering the “monthly call of nature”, and schools around the village now have increase population of girls’ enrolment and school attendance.

Now there is privacy for girls who want to change their pads, because there are separate pour toilets for girls and boys. It was shameful for girls to change in the general toilet or even in the open. Then the option was to stay away from school.

Head Teacher of Anuli Community School, Mrs. Fransisca Onyebuchi, confessed that the UNICEF Water and Sanitation Hygiene, WASH project funded by UNICEF, EU and the Anambra State government has provided portable water and toilet facilities, integrated power flush toilets of 10 rooms for both male and female pupils in the school.

“Since the toilet was constructed, we have experienced a vast enrollment into our school, especially the girl-child enrollment. The challenge the community had in the past was that most parents were not financially capable to donate money for the toilet but now we have done it at no cost, Francisca smiled as she explained.

“Before the toilets were built, we were facing a lot of dangers like the students have to use toilets in the bush and some of the rooms were collapsing which posed as a death trap to the students, some dig the ground and after defecating they cover it up, but with this toilet we feel like international people”, he said.

The pupils come to school with water from their homes; we used to have 100 pupils now we have well over 300 pupils in the school, Oyebuchi explained. The pupils are very neat now they come early to school. The project was co funded between European Union, EU, UNICEF and Anambra state government, through public procurement process.

At a 2- Day media dialogue on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH, organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, in Awka, Anambra State, the UNICEF WASH Specialist, Mainga Moona Banda during a presentation on the critical role of WASH in health, nutrition and education in Nigeria disclosed that about 130 million Nigerians still use unimproved sanitation facilities, and that 45,000 children die from poor sanitation. This makes Nigeria rank among the three countries in the world with the largest number of people practicing open defecation, ODF.

This means that girls suffer more in unhygienic environments whenever they are “on”. And for them availability of clean water and clean latrine would just be one thing they would cherish most and it would help to increase their school attendance and even enrolment.

According to Moona, WASH can affect school attendance of girls. She said, “girls’ absence from school due to difficulty of managing menstrual hygiene management, MHM, is one contributing s factor in lack of appropriate wash facilities without which many girls are likely to miss school while they menstruate.”

‘’Without the appropriate facilities, girls cannot adequately manage their menstrual hygiene, resulting in fear, embarrassment or teasing associating with unpleasant odours or stains.’’

As a way of helping rural communities out of the doldrums of open defecation, OD, lack of sanitation, and low enrolment of the girl- child in schools and lack of development, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, the European Union, EU, and Anambra State government have jointed embarked on Water Supply, Sanitation and Sector Reform Project, WSSSRP to provide clean water and modern pour toilets at institutions like schools strategic public places.

According to Banda, the overall objective of the WSSSRP project is to provide increase access to safe, adequate and sustainable WASH services delivery in six focus states with the aim of supporting rural water and sanitation institutions in Anambra, Cross River, Jigawa, Kano, Osun and Yobe States.

Moona said that the WSSSRP project is expected to ensure that more than 945,000 additional people in the rural communities of six EU focal States have access to safe water supply. More than 2,500,000 additional people in the rural communities of six EU focal states have access to sanitation and hygiene. More than 1625 communities have achieved open defecation free ,ODF, status.

According to UNICEF Report, the project objective in these six focus states is to help deliver sustainable water supply and sanitation services and this is done by upgrading Local Government WASH Units to attain the status of WASH Departments and to strengthen the capacity to implement rural WASH Projects.

UNICEF WASH Officer, Jonathan Ekhator, enumerating the objectives of the project in the six focal states said that it is aimed at increasing access to safe and sustainable water supply services for 1.5 million underserved people with equity in the rural communities of 20 self-selected LGAs in the six EU focal states and to increase access to improved sanitation and hygiene promotion in rural communities, schools and health facilities.

Mr Olumide Osanyinpeju, Deputy Director, Child Rights Information Bureau who represented the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed , emphasised that WASH is very important in the lives of children and for the survival of of women and children, especially for girls.

QUOTE

The project objective in these six focus states is to help deliver sustainable water supply and sanitation services and this is done by upgrading Local Government WASH Units to attain the status of WASH Departments and to strengthen the capacity to implement rural WASH Projects

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