There is a massive problem in the basic public schools in Ghana. Around 7,332 out of the 20,738 total public schools do not have toilet facilities.
Basic public schools statistics
In the Ashanti region, 1,427 out of the 3,754 basic public schools don’t have toilets while in the Western area, 1,132 out of the 2,408 schools are without toilets. In the Upper West Region, 350 out of the 1,165 schools don’t have bathrooms.
Ghana’s Education Management Information System notes that while 65% of the school system had latrines, only 42% of those had a water supply. This means that every two out of five children defecate in the open.
Open defecation in Ghana
A 2012 World Bank report showed that open defecation costs Ghana over $79 million annually. Also, Ghana ranks 2nd in Africa regarding open defecation. Ghana has the negative reputation of being the 7th dirtiest country in the world.
These children lack basic sanitation, and these schools can be breeding places for illnesses like diarrhea. A solution to this can be bidet toilets for schools and can help create a clean and hygienic experience for children.
UNICEF’s assistance in Ghana
Mr. David Duncan of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is highly concerned of this situation and said that if the situation did not improve, a whole generation of children would experience school without toilet facilities and water supply.
UNICEF had already invested $4 million this year in improving the situation but will likely need to continue channeling more funds to see more progress. UNICEF is not very optimistic about the case and believes it will take Ghana 500 years to end open defecation.
Duncan adds that the goal is, therefore, to bring toilets to all school and to equip them with access to water so they can wash their hands and be able to maintain good hygiene in school. Media must play an active and positive role in getting everyone aware of the issue and challenge the government to act on the problem immediately so that everyone can see results quickly.
Government’s plan to improve the situation
The national government’s plan in collaboration with the following departments: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resource, developed a strategic plan called the National Costed Strategy for WASH in Schools. The government will implement this in 2018 until 2030. It aims to provide all basic public schools (from kindergarten to junior high schools) a clean and healthy learning experience.
The government needs to implement education and awareness campaigns for people to change and for the government to put more effort in tackling this problem. The diseases that can arise from open defecation because of the lack of toilet and water facilities can create a health crisis and will dramatically increase the infant mortality rate as well as lower the mortality rate.
This will also impact tourism in the country and will create international embarrassment if open defecation pictures and videos get viral on social media.