M-CODe urges government to allocate more budget for sanitation in schools

By Eunice Hilda Ampomah, GNA

Accra, Aug. 21, GNA – The Media Coalition
against Open Defecation (M-CODe) has called on government to make adequate
budgetary allocation for the operation and maintenance of water and sanitation
facilities in schools.

The appeal followed reports that facilities
could only be properly maintained and operated with constant supply of toilet
papers, soap and water.

The call was made at a news conference
organised by M-CODe, the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS),
World Vision and the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) in Accra on
Wednesday to discuss the “Operation and Maintenance of School Sanitation

Mr Cecil Nii Obodai Wentum, a member of
M-CODe, said even though, through the GAMA sanitation project, toilet
facilities were built for many schools, problems of maintenance remained a
major challenge.

“Barely, a year after the facilities were
handed to the school authorities, there are signs of maintenance challenges
creeping in, which we fear, if not addressed immediately, some of the
facilities will not function up to five years,” he said.

He mentioned the inability of janitors to
keep the facilities clean, electricity supply to provide lighting and security
as some of the challenges.

Meanwhile, he said, given the current
restrictions in collection of fees from parents in public schools as a strict
government directive, the School Management Committees and head teachers found
it difficult to play those roles effectively.

Mr Wentum said school authorities sometimes
pleaded with parents to contribute for the maintenance of the toilets,but
majority failed to do so, which compelled the authorities to lock up the toilet
facilities, forcing the pupils to revert to open defecation when at school.

Even though the capitation grant, he
explained, was expected to cover maintenance of school facilities (including
water and sanitation facilities), the total grant of GH¢9.00 per pupil per year
was inadequate.

According to the GAMA Project, it will
require an estimated cost of GH¢45.00 per pupil every year to operate and
maintain a six-seater Water Closet toilet used by between 300 and 350 pupils

Dr Doris Yaa Dartey, the Patron of the
M-CODe, urged religious groups, civil society organisations, and traditional
authorities to pay critical attention to issues of open defecation and
sanitation in general.

“How much are you an Honourable or a decent
man or woman if after you defecate, it is collected into water bodies and you
don’t show concern. It is not only about those who practise open defecation,”
she said.

Focusing on the sanitation value chain, Dr
Dartey said the incidence of open defecation was now scarier than the
statistics showed and described it and indiscriminate littering of the
environment as a ‘national disaster’ which needed to be addressed with speed.

“Even though, people who practise open
defecation know that it is wrong, uncivilized and unrespectable, they still do
it. To actually lay claim to civilisation as a country, we must fix this
disgusting matter of open dedication and respond to nature’s call in dignity,”
she said.

The Patron urged the state to find
innovative ways to process human excreta for useful products such as; biogas
and electricity, saying, it was necessary to treat everything humans produced
as important.

Mr Yaw Atta Arhin, the Vice Chairman of
CONIWAS, said 32 per cent of people living in the country practised open
defecation daily, and 30 per cent of public schools didn’t have access to
toilet facilities.

According to a UNICEF report, every gramme
of faecal matter contained 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, and one
thousand parasites, he said, adding that, that was dangerous to human health.

“Poor sanitation costs the nation 279
million dollars, while open defecation costs $79 million annually. Therefore,
fighting the problem will save the country huge sums of money,” he said.

He recommended the setting up of an
initiative to force Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies to resolve
sanitation problems in their areas.

He also called on the government to
establish a National Sanitation Authority with laid down strategies to help
control sanitation problems in the country.