• P-bucket is the saving grace –Students
• ‘Facilities in worst states once cleaners go on strike’
• School authority should address issue of dirty toilets, says professor
The increasing rate at which Nigerian undergraduates make use of potties, nick-named, P-bucket, to evade direct use of dirty toilet facilities in school premises is currently at alarming level and needs to be addressed, CHIJIOKE IREMEKA and CHIKODILI OZULUMBA report
The rate at which potties, nicknamed, P-buckets are replacing the conventional toilet facilities in the Nigerian higher institutions is frightening. Undergraduates, especially the females could no longer use public toilets directly. They defecate in potties, in their rooms, and empty its contents in the toilet afterwards.
One would have thought that issues bothering on personal and group hygiene should be at the vanguard of every higher institution in Nigeria but what obtains in many universities across the country has cast a doubt on this presumption. Sunday Telegraph visits to a number of higher institutions in the country, have not revealed otherwise, as some of these schools carry out all manner of unhygienic practices due to paucity of toilet facilities in Nigerian schools as well as over use of existing ones.
Today’s government universities, with a few exceptions, have very dilapidated toilet facilities leading to several unhygienic practices by students, who are adjudged the movers and shakers of country’s tomorrow. It’s, therefore, shocking to say here, that most of the toilets cannot be directly used by students due largely to high population quite above the carrying capacity of each hall or the university in general. No running water. No functioning boreholes.
Where there are a few boreholes, electric power supply is not available. Not unexpectedly, the whole place stinks to high heavens. This, perhaps, is not the kind of milieu needed for producing future leaders. It is high time the country began to rescue its public universities from the swamp of filthiness into which they have been sinking, at least, in the last 15 years.
It is painful that Nigerian undergraduates now use potties like very toddler in Day-Care centres would. By the way, P-bucket or potties is a small container, usually empty custard container used in place of the toilet by ladies, who live in school hostels or public apartments without decent toilets.
They poo in them and empty their contents in a toilet just like a mother would do for her toddler. If one is not careful, one can even use these potties for domestic purposes – wash clothes and fetch water for drinking or cooking – without knowing one is making use of a mobile toilet on the campus or in local residences.
It’s, therefore, important that one pays attention to every details of what happens around him, especially if one is living with a lady in an indecent apartment. You might be toiling with a mobile; watch it out. Sequel to this, Sunday Telegraph observed that many students, despite their carelessness will not directly use a toilet where maggots and flies among other harmful organisms are permanently ‘holding meetings.’ More so, parents whose children are getting ready for resumption in these universities must not forget to buy potties for them. Potties are some of the new valuables.
Young ladies use more potties than men in their halls or hostels. You and I can guess the coping strategy of male students in this connection. This is definitely an eyesore and indeed, a mind sore as Prof. Niyi Osundare once said, in a public lecture. This recent development makes smaller, Nigerian students, especially the female gender.
But they have no choice, if they want to reduce the risk of infection to the barest minimum. Companies producing potties are currently smiling to the bank more regularly than ever. This is because more potties are in demand by students across the board. This is a blessing in disguise for the companies.
According to an undergraduate of University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Enugu State, Josephine Ebo, the school management seemed not to pay close attention to the environmental hygiene, saying that there are cases of dirty toilets, where cleaner will not touch until they get filled to the brim. “In the female hostels where there are 90 rooms, 360 occupants and squatters, few toilets are provided.
A toilet is allocated to 4 rooms, which is meant to be cleaned, and maintained till the end of the semester,” she said. According to her, a room was supposed to have maximum of four occupants, but lack of accommodation, where minimum of six and maximum of eight students were to be admitted, 32 occupants share one toilet facility. One can imagine the state of such facility if 32 whole people make us of it.
She said: “Majority of the girls now resort to P-buckets so as not to be entangled in the whole toilet drama. P-buckets in the universities are life-savers in the sense that they are affordable and more reliant.” Josephine, who has secured one, urges other ladies in the hostel to get one as it makes ‘the business’ easier, saying that the price for potties ranges between N180 and N250, while some heady traders sell theirs as high as between N200 and N300.
“Potties come in different colours and ladies would say that P-bucket has been saving lives since day one,” she quipped. It was learnt that there is a hostel where 12 toilets and bathrooms are shared by over 200 students.
This particular hostel is supposed to be reserved for the ‘Big-girls’ yet the stench oozing out of it is unbearable. In the light of good hygiene practices, the school authorities should put in more efforts to ensure that the living environments are conducive for students,” she said. Sunday Telegraph also took a trip to the University of Lagos, Akoka, where it met with a 300-level Law student, a resident of Kofoworola Hostel, Ola Shade, who said the hostels are not the best, rather manageable. She said the University has, in its small way, maintained a certain degree of hygiene at the hostels except for the issue of bedbugs, plaguing the hotels.
“Bedbugs are in all hostels, making it difficult for life to go smoothly. One cannot sleep well, dress well without these creatures moving about. Normally, we were advised to sun-dry our beds to kill them, but they are now wiser. “Most times, in order not to get bitten by them, I read all through the night because the marks they leave, keeps itching till forever,” she said.
She, however, admitted that rooms are allocated to single toilet but some girls defy all odds and use the toilets directly, exposing themselves to different kinds of diseases. “In my hostel, four rooms are allocated to a toilet and we are eight in room, excluding squatters. We were advised to get personal P-buckets but some girls would rather use the toilets directly making themselves vulnerable to toilet infections,” she said.
In the same manner, a student who pleaded anonymity, said hygiene on the hostels is on the average but appealed to the school authorities to pay more attention to Amina Hostel, the oldest hostel in the school as it needs a facelift. Also, Sunday Telegraph’s train also moved to Abia State University (ABSU), where Chidimma Okaro said the states of the hostels in the school are unimaginable, saying that the management pays little or no attention to the maintenance of the hostels as well as the toilets.
According to her, cleaners hardly clean up both the toilets and the immediate environment of the school which makes the environment not conducive for learning. She said living off-campus is the best choice with its attendant challenges – outrageous prices charged by shylock landlords. Living off camp, according to her, affords one the opportunity of choosing the type of apartment one wants, whether a room self-contained or single room to share toilet with two or three persons but this also come at a cost.
The same is the case of University of Jos, where a number of students still complain about the poor states of facilities in the school, including toilet facilities, which they said is over utilised by increasing number of students in the school. According to Blessing Imokiri, the hostels are well constructed with toilet facilities to take care of the hostel but the explosion in the number of students has affected its effective use. She said that the problems of over-crowded hostels and over-used toilet facilities can be successfully addressed, if the management has the political will to do so, insisting that when the hostels where built, they didn’t have this number in view but increasing population has affected it. Again, attitudes of some universities to the cleaners have also fueled the crisis.
On many occasions, the cleaners go on strike, leaving the toilets unclean for days, which impacted the cleanliness of the hostel. This has turned many students into what they shouldn’t be.
However, it’s precarious to continue to luster over this issue, thereby sending a wrong signal to our students and of course, the wide world that hygienic culture has no space in the contemporary university consciousness. Nigeria is arguably the champion of Africa, given its enormous, robust human and material resources as well as population size of 180 million but its higher institutions are faced with a great dilapidation.
Thus, provision of clean hostels including toilet facilities is part of the process of character building embedded in profundity. University education in Nigeria should not be reduced to the sphere of mere awarding of certificates to students after completing their studies. Every human being is to a certain degree, a product of his socio-physical environment. Suffice it to say, that after training, education is what is left as a perpetual legacy. That is the beauty of university training. This underscores the reason each university management team must develop a new narrative of total commitment to cleanliness.
Thus, the motto of the University of Ibadan, is “Knowledge and Good Character.” Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife has its as “Learning and Culture,” while “Naturally Ahead” is the motto for University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Nigeria has over 40 federal universities and at least, 38 state-owned ones. Sadly enough, the morphology of the learning environment is very poor.
The emphasis here is on the university toilet facilities that are in sorry states. According to Prof. James Ogundele of University of Ibadan, the university is a special institution committed to the development or nurturing of refined personalities capable of combining knowledge in a myriad of disciplines with good character. He noted that the essence of all these engagements in education and social development is the improvement of the human condition across scales.
Every university, he noted, needs a pleasant, clean learning environment in order to produce gentlemen and ladies in the final analysis, saying that the campus is not supposed to be a breeding ground for dirty, violent and rascally graduates. According to him, the impact of the physical and social environment on students is certainly enormous, insisting that refined university graduates will plough back their vibrant knowledge into the larger system or society. He maintained that clean hostels and by extension, toilets are for students are not a luxury but a necessity. “Indeed, clean hostel facilities are a necessity as opposed to an option.
This reality also determines to a great extent, the academic performance of each student in the long run,” he argued. He gave a scenario where paucity of toilet facility has molded some students into believing that open defecation is a normal practice in the society. He said, “A number of students from the University of Ibadan were lodged in an unoccupied palace during archaeological field training, in Osun State. “Within the two-week period, the surroundings of the sacred building – the heart and soul of the host community, were in a thorough mess. Human faecal and other material wastes turned the palace into a filthy space.
“Consequently, one of the High Chiefs holding the fort while the community was searching for a new king (Oba) cursed the students for offending their sensibilities through the lens of desecration. “As a result of this poor behaviour, the departmental authorities could no longer use the sites in the community as a field school. Although this behaviour is condemnable by all standards, we should not forget in a hurry, the centrality of physical and social environmental determinism in the evolution of human personality.”
According to the United Kingdom (UK) Workplace Regulation 1992, Regulation 20, Sanitary Conveniences, states: “Suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences shall be provided at readily accessible places.
“Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), sanitary conveniences shall not be suitable unless – the rooms containing them are adequately ventilated and lit; they and the rooms containing them are kept in a clean and orderly condition; and: “Separate rooms containing conveniences are provided for men and women except where and so far as each convenience is in a separate room and the door of which is capable of being secured from inside.”
Furthermore, the approved code of practice says one toilet should be shared between one and five women only, while two toilets should be shared between six and 20 women at a work place.
On the other hand, between one and 15 men share one toilet, while five toilets will be shared between 91 and 100. Also, facilities required within a school are set by regulations based on the age and gender of the pupils. Separate toilet facilities must be provided for boys and girls aged 8 or over, unless it is in a room that can be secured from the inside and intended for use by one pupil at a time.
Pupils aged 11 or over must have access to suitable changing accommodation and showers if they participate in physical education. Separate toilet facilities should be provided for pupils who are disabled, although these can also be used by other pupils, teachers, and visitors whether they are disabled or not. The regulations, however, do not set the minimum number of fittings for the number of pupils, although an adequate provision would be one toilet and washbasin per 10 pupils under 5 years of age.
For pupils above the age of 5 years, this ratio can be doubled to one toilet per 20 pupils but the number of washbasins reduced where washing facilities are shared. Appropriate toilet facilities need to be provided for staff which can also be used by visitors.
All facilities within a school must be adequately ventilated and lit and provide easy access which allows for informal supervision by staff. If Nigerian universities could embrace this, there will be no reason for increasing rate of potties usage in the country which has turned many graduates into men and women of dishonour, in terms of generally acceptable characters