Special Report: Inside Enugu’s Multi-Million Naira School Projects Without Functional Toilet Facilities

In Breaking News, Education, Investigation

By Ben Aro, The Whistler

Among the legacy projects of former Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State is the construction of multi-million-naira primary schools across the state, with a majority of them having ultra-modern toilet facilities. This report focuses on the squalid state of some of the toilet facilities due to the absence of water, and their health risks, writes Ben Aroh.

We’re At Risk Of Snake Bites – Pupils

Chioma is a pupil of Union Primary School, Onuiyi, Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State. The school is located about one kilometer from the Onuiyi Haven of Nigeria’s first president, Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. Chioma said the pupils do not use the toilet facilities in her school because weeds have taken over the facilities. It was observed that the state government, through its Universal Basic Education Board, built ultra-modern classroom blocks for Chioma and her schoolmates, but left the toilet at the risk of the users.

“We make use of the bush behind the school,” Chioma said. “The toilet in the school is no longer in good condition. We don’t have water facilities, so don’t talk about that one. Tell your government to build a modern toilet facility for us and provide us with water. We are afraid of snakes each time we make use of our toilet. We choose to go to the bush where we can see the ground clearly.”

Nkechi, not her real name, is a teacher at the same Union Primary School. She said, “I have nothing to say except to ask you to tell Enugu State Universal Education Board to build toilet facilities for us. Our school environment is dirty and unhygienic for our pupils. We are not only talking about building the toilets alone, they should also reticulate water or build a borehole for us. Toilet facilities without running water are also difficult to manage.”

A member of the Parent-Teacher Association of the school, Malachy Ezeugwu, told our correspondent that, “When ENSUBEB began to build these schools, we were happy because we never had it so good. Today, we can boast of good classroom blocks with educational facilities. But the absence of functional toilet facilities makes the project incomplete. I don’t know if water provision is actually part of the projects, but such should not be neglected. We expect the new governor to do the needful.”

The story of Union Primary School, Onuiyi, is almost the same as the Central School, Obollo-Afor, in Udenu LGA. With its many ultra-modern classroom blocks, the primary school has two building structures meant for toilets. One is the old one, and the second is the modern one built by the state under ex-governor Ugwuanyi.

Our reporter met a guard during this investigation. “Be careful!” was his warning when this reporter headed towards the ‘modern’ toilet. He added that “Don’t go there because of snakes. Nobody uses that one any longer. We wanted the state to make provisions for water, but nothing like that happened. Shortly after its construction, it became unusable due to the absence of water.”

It is the same sorry situation at Union Primary School, Orhom-Orba. It was gathered that a borehole and a water tank were provided for them, but the activities of vandals have almost rendered the toilet facilities useless. Orba is the country home of ex-governor Ugwuanyi.

The headteacher of the school, Eunice Asogwa, said, “We have toilet facilities but our major problem is vandalization. It is terrible. Every day, they destroy our facilities. We have tried our best to secure the place, but no way. We have written to the traditional ruler, youths, and the community’s neighborhood watch group. We have also written to Orhom Orba Town Union, but no response from them.

“We have our School Based Management Committee. We have been appealing to them. My colleague and I have written letters for interventions. We have a functional borehole, but our major concern is the continued vandalization of the facilities. What we want is a fence and security to secure the facilities.”

The story of Ezimo-Agu Primary School is even worse. The school has no toilet facilities, hence the pupils resort to open defecation when they are pressed. The headteacher of the school, Charles Ugbo, said, “My own school does not have toilet facilities. I suggest to the government to provide toilet facilities in every school. Then communities should work hand in hand with the government to ensure that water facility is provided to help in making use of those facilities. In terms of places where those facilities are provided but not maintained, I advise that all hands be on deck, otherwise, it is a wasted effort. Communities should complement the efforts of the government. The government should also provide security throughout the state to protect those facilities.”

Education Secretariat Appeals For Support

Rose Ugwu, education secretary, Udenu LGA, was not around when our correspondent visited the secretariat. However, a senior official told us that, “Our people don’t appreciate what the state government built for them. There are committees in every community meant to help in developing these schools. It is called School-Based Management Committee, SBMC. Members include natives where such schools are located. The aim is to protect those facilities. Unfortunately, the same villagers, who’re supposed to protect these facilities, turn around to be stealing from the same structures. An example is Union Primary School, Orhom-Orba. Modern toilet facilities, with a geared tank, were built there. The place was vandalized, with the gear tank stolen. Even some ICT equipment given to them was recently vandalized, and some of the equipment was stolen.

“It is the same story at Central School, Obollo-Afor. Vandals destroyed the burglary proofs installed there to protect facilities donated to them by the state government. We appeal to everybody to help in protecting those facilities. It is discouraging. In terms of water facilities in those facilities, some boreholes were built in some schools, but not in all of them. Then where boreholes were not provided, gear tanks were provided for the storage of water. The government is trying its best, but communities are not doing enough.”

ENSUBEB Declines To Respond

The Whistler visited the headquarters of the state Universal Basic Education Board at Independence Layout, Enugu, to ascertain if the provision of running water was part of the contract for building the toilets. The director of Public Relations of the board, one Emeka, asked the reporter to make an official request through a letter. The letter was delivered to the office of the executive chairman of the board, but no reply was given as of the time of filing this report. The request wanted to know how much was spent in building the facilities under investigation, if boreholes were part of the deal, and whether host communities were assigned any role in maintaining the facilities.

An insider, who refused to be mentioned, however, said, “The schools were built through counterpart funding between the state government, represented by Enugu State Universal Basic Education Board, ENSUBEB, and the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC. The ratio of the funding is the state contributing 25 percent while UBEC contributed 75 percent. The scheme led to the construction of over 1, 500 modern schools, and also providing them with education facilities. Most of them were provided with ultra-modern toilet facilities.

“I don’t know how much was involved because I am not privy to the contract papers. I don’t also know if boreholes were part of the projects. But I know that about five boreholes were built. They are cited at some privileged schools.”

We Supervised The Projects And Handed Over To ENSUBEB – UBEC

David Apeh, the public relations officer of UBEC, said his agency supervised the projects to the finish and handed them over to the state. He however did not specify the amounts spent in building them or whether water facilities were part of the project.

According to him, “The director in charge said the project was completed and handed over to ENSUBEB. You should go to the physical planning department of ENSUBEB to get the details. We have handed over, and no longer have anything to do with them. And it is not like in Abuja where we monitor projects in and out.

“Before we do anything, each state would give us their profiles, that is what they want to be done. They send us the action plan with photographs and pictures. It is based on what they send us from states that UBEC will then depend on to approve. If there are any necessary corrections, they will be effected. UBEC will then release funds after such states had paid their counterpart funds. If they do the construction, they will call our office to inspect the projects stage by stage. It depends on what is written in the action plan.” 

Stakeholders React

Comrade Victor Eya, a former chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, Udenu LGA, blamed the sorry state of the toilet facilities on poor execution of the construction and lack of water. In his words, “Most of these toilets pose risk to pupils and teachers. They can collapse anytime because of the substandard work executed by the contractors in connivance with their supervisors. Again, there is no water supply in those facilities for cleaning them. Nobody would risk such.

“The communities where they are located have roles to play in maintaining those facilities. In fact, the state government made it compulsory for every school to have a School Based Management Committee that will be collaborating with head teachers, teachers, and pupils in tackling challenges in their respective schools, in collaboration with the state government. But there is no financial inducement to help the committees to carry out their assignments. However, the duty of the committee is to liaise with the school to attract donations from members of the communities. But the prevailing economic situation is not helping matters. That is why they have been silent. The way out is for the government to build boreholes or reticulate water in schools to help in managing toilet facilities where they are provided.”

Emmanuel Jonathan is a former aide to former governor Ugwuanyi. He was also an education supervisor in the past administration. He advised the new government of Mr. Peter Mba to consolidate the efforts of his predecessor by providing water facilities in those schools.

He said, “How will toilet facilities in primary schools be useful without water? I appeal to the new government to provide water facilities in every school to ensure hygiene. ENSUBEB should also look into having boreholes. Such boreholes will also provide water to the host communities and also generate incomes for the schools.”

Health Risks

Cajetan Idoko is a health officer in Nsukka LGA. He called for proper sanitation in all public schools in the state to avert outbreaks of diseases. He said, “There are health risks attendant to the state of these toilets. The unhygienic environment in most of the schools can lead to communicable diseases. Aside from this, snakes, scorpions, and other poisonous creatures find such an environment conducive to habitation. It is a wakeup call on concerned authorities to rise to the occasion.”

Mrs. Jane Odo, a parent, told our correspondent that the dirty state of the public school her child was attending informed changing her school to a private school. “Private schools are expensive,” she began, “but I won’t risk the life of my daughter in an unkempt public school because of money. It is bad seeing a pupil going into dirty bushes to defecate, even in a wet environment.”   

This report was published with support from Civic Media Lab.

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