Tanzania: Call for Decent Toilets in All Schools Intensifies

IN many forums to discuss the development of education in the country, stakeholders including parents, policy makers, and children have been talking widely on the importance of toilets in schools as call for improved sanitation in both private and public schools gain momentum.

Discussing a report from the House of Representatives Committee on social welfare (Health and education), some legislators recently called on the government and development partners to improve sanitation schools.

Ms MwanaAsha Khamis Juma-the committee chairperson mentioned that it was high time schools management committees, local government, and development partners, teamed up and ensure all schools have toilets. The committee found out that many public school still lack toilets or insufficient toilets with poor sanitation, girls being the most affected in surroundings with poor sanitation.

According to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) when discussing supporting children can go to school, not many people think about toilets. However experience has shown availability of toilets can encourage children, especially girls, to go to school and remain in the school system.

GPE document says lack of proper toilets in schools threatens the education of millions of children in the developing world, who are at risk of getting sick due to poor hygiene, and subsequently miss school. The risks are even higher for girls.

In developing countries, the lack of separate toilets for girls and boys is among the top barriers to girls' education. When a girl reaches puberty, access to a separate toilet can be the decisive factor of whether she continues with her education.

Researchers have proved that when girls are menstruating, they need access to a water point and to have a place where they can dispose of their pads, "Without this, girls may miss up to 5 days of school every month or worse, drop out of school completely."

The Global Partnership for Education helps the most vulnerable children in the poorest countries get a quality education. The biggest message from education activists is that "Let us not take toilets for granted: The toilets play a key role in creating safe and healthy school environments where children can focus on learning."

The Minister for education and vocational training Ms Riziki Pembe Juma admits that poor sanitation with insufficient toilets is still a challenge in many of the more than three hundred schools in the country. "We are taking new measures to ensure sanitation and hygiene is appropriate in all schools. We urge everyone including parents and students to play a role," Ms Juma said.

Students at Pujin School in Chakechake District say that although toilets and pit latrines are constructed, it has taken long to solve the problem made worse with lack of water. "For boys it's not a big deal, we can ease ourselves in bush, but girls particularly at the age of puberty have to rush home."

A UNESCO report estimates that 1 in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their menstrual cycle, which equals as much as 20 percent of a school year. Girls may also be harassed or attacked when they are looking for a private place if their school doesn't have toilets.

Faced with these concerns, girls might choose to limit their consumption of drinks and foods, which can lead to malnourishment and eventually prompt them to drop out. UNICEF says lack of access to proper sanitation facilities poses a huge barrier to education as children frequently miss school due to hygiene-related diseases.

Toilets and proper handwashing stations can help stop the spread of many communicable diseases and parasites such as diarrhoea and that many schools in Zanzibar are in a dire situation mostly characterised by an insufficient water supply, absent or inadequate sanitation and hand-washing facilities.

Researchers also see that in some cases, facilities do exist but are broken down; untidy or unsafe, and that latrine designs in most schools do not reflect needs of girls, pre-primary schoolchildren and those with disabilities.

The Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS) says even in homes, sanitation is poor as about one in five households in Tanzania (19 percent) use improved toilet facilities, defined as non-shared facilities that prevent people from coming into contact with human waste and thus reduce the transmission of cholera, typhoid, and other diseases.

Shared toilet facilities of an otherwise acceptable type are especially common in Tanzania Mainland urban areas (42 per cent), and one in ten households do not use any toilet facility. The most commonly used improved toilet facility in Tanzania Mainland urban areas is a flush toilet or pours flush to pit latrine (16 per cent) and in Zanzibar, it is a pit latrine with slab.

Use of improved non-shared toilet facilities is much higher among households in Zanzibar (59 per cent) than in urban and rural Tanzania Mainland (35 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively). Eighty six per cent of Tanzania Mainland rural households use unimproved toilet facilities or have no toilet facilities at all, which increases the risk of disease transmission.

By contrast, 23 per cents of households in Tanzania Mainland urban areas and 27 per cent of households in Zanzibar use unimproved toilet facilities or have no toilet facilities at all, and while slowly declining, the per cent of households using unimproved toilet facilities are still in the majority.

Authorities, teachers, parents, and local leaders should understand that inadequate access to a comfortable, convenient, and secure toilet at schools is still a problem that requires concerted efforts to overcome, and that it must be given a priority in all future schools projects.

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