Namibia: 120,000 Learners Exposed to Health Hazards

Most of the toilets at the Okaukuejo Combined School hostel and school grounds are out of order (file photo).
2 November 2017

Windhoek — With the motion on poor sanitation high on the agenda in the National Assembly, the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture has revealed that the number of learners exposed to health hazards associated with lack of sanitation facilities is approximately 120,218 countrywide.

This was revealed in parliament by Anna Nghipondok, who is the deputy minister of education, when she contributed to the motion tabled by Swapo chief whip Evelyn !Nawases-Taeyele on the issue of poor sanitation, hygiene and the lack of access to decent sanitation facilities in Namibia.

! Nawases-Taeyele said her motion aims to promote hygiene and in the same vein encourage parliament as a law-making body to continue improving the living conditions of communities.

Nghipondoka shared specific statistical information on the status of sanitation facilities at public schools, as derived from the 2016 annual education census.

Out of a total of 1,826 public schools as at 2016, only 1,459 (79.9 percent) have toilets for learners.

She said out of the 1, 459, only 282 (19 percent) have flush toilets while the others have pit latrines.

According to the annual education census of 2016, the total number of learners in public schools stood at 698,453.

Nghipondoka revealed that the number of learners exposed to dangers related to open defecation at 367 schools without any kind of a toilet stood at 120,218 learners.

"If you look at 20 percent of 1,826 schools without a toilet, the picture may look not scary but the picture will look different if you consider the number of learners exposed to health hazards associated with lack of sanitation facilities, which is roughly 120,218 learners."

She said it is also unfortunate that the majority of children at schools without toilets come from homes without toilet facilities and as a result they grow into adults without the necessary exposure to toilets.

Nghipondoka is however optimistic that the status quo will change after the finalisation of this year's annual education census carried out in September at public schools.

She said children or learners exposed to uncontrollable health hazards end up getting sick, are absent from school and their performance is affected.

According to her, improving access to sanitation is not only a critical step towards reducing the impact of these diseases, but it also helps create physical environments that enhance safety, dignity and self-esteem.

"Safety, dignity and self-esteem are great attributes for our children growing into citizens having a positive self-concept as a human being," she noted.

Another challenge she mentioned is the absence of water.

Pit latrines, she says, are a health hazard due to difficulty in keeping them clean and also present safety risks due to the fact that they get flooded during the rainy season, especially in flood regions, posing dangers of them collapsing while in use by learners.

Meanwhile, Swapo MP Lucia Nghaamwa congratulated the Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (MVA) that is busy constructing 15 toilets for people living with disabilities, in 7de Laan informal settlement in Windhoek.

She said the government and communities have done well in providing decent sanitation facilities with the help of private stakeholders, but stressed much needs to be done, including the fair allocation of toilets in rural villages.

"Positive policies are required at all levels: national, district, local and rural levels to encourage and facilitate the achievement of appropriate supply of water, sanitation and hygiene in the community," Nghaamwa said.

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