Full bowels make learning nasty, ask Kimanga pupils

Full bowels make learning nasty, ask Kimanga pupils

Schools have been reported to have no toilets. Those which have any present horrible structures with overflowing dump of waste, which people with the hardest of hearts will visit. It all reminds me of decades back when I pastured our livestock out on the plain as a young boy. The need to answer a call of nature, would send me scurrying to some spot behind a thicket and there I emptied my bowels.

If I found the area filled with the waste of my predecessors, so to speak, I chose an empty space nearby and released the sphincters. The common dress for boys those days was a pair of shorts (kaptura) with wide legs. To relieve myself, I only had to pull up one leg to expose my bottom before I squatted and was ready to fertilise the land. It was fun and comfortable in the hot African sun.

I enjoyed the heat and the breeze and watched birds glide in the sky above me although some of them spoiled my fun by discharging a dropping on my head. Still, it is nothing you can compare with locking yourself in a booth with a hole to receive the body waste you eject. Back then, where the expelled matter would all end up in was none of my business.

In fact, I did not even think of it. But the environment of a school is different. Moreover, a school is where people are supposed to learn to practice hygienic life in addition to other things they learn. And a school in town demands the presence of every hygienic standard to be right.

After all, there are no bushes as an alternative toilet. Kimanga Primary School in the city of Dar es Salaam fares no better than those schools without a toilet at all or a couple of others with an insufficient number in proportion to the school’s population. Given the 2136 schoolchildren Kimanga has and only 10 pit latrines, the situation must be deplorable and the picture of a pupil grimacing by a toilet’s door with the pain from bowels demanding to be emptied as he awaits his turn, is not hard to conjure. On the campus the school presents a deceptive picture of calm and comfort.

But a meeting the school’s administration called on 22 February, this year for parents and members of the school’s staff revealed that both teachers and the pupils work and learn in a harrowing situation. There was a dire shortage of toilets for both the groups. Such educational tales of poor sanitation and lack of hygienic facilities could be expected from the rural where most infrastructures are less developed and the government’s overstretched funds have little effect.

However, finding a problem and in a chronic nature right in the nation’s commercial capital brimming with big organizations of mega-sums business, a place hosting nearly all government headquarters, defies all understanding. Obviously, learners and their teachers need a healthy environment. Kimanga Primary School’s health problem merely exemplifies the sanitation agony many schools in the country go through.

Last Sunday – January 22 - the school’s administration called a meeting to work out a strategy to improve performance of their pupils. Its population of 2,136 pupils has only 65 teachers! That reflects a miserable teacher-pupil ration. Ilala Municipal Education Officer Tatu Kikwete says Dar es Salaam Region often gets a small numbers of teachers compared to other regions. “We are considered better off,” she told Reporter at Large.

Teachers of Kimanga Primary School therefore worked out a strategy for good performance and create a good competitive footing to take on their neighbours in the district like Tumaini Primary School reputed for sterling records. Announcing the programmes, one of the teachers said that last year they gave Tumaini a fight for their life and scored impressively in the district’s overall standing. The parents reacted to the information with resounding hearty claps.

“We ask you to endorse the programmes. There is a weekly speed-test for Std IV for which a pupil will pay 400/-.” One of my children used to sneak out of the classroom through the window without the teacher noticing because they were 150 in the class. The pupils will be given tuition in addition to normal class lessons. The sum of 250 will be required for that extra teaching. Ms Kikwete condemns all tuition, explaining that they all have been forbidden by the government, but she says, if it is the will of the parents to enable the teacher provide better teaching for the pupils, the authorities cannot interfere with the local arrangement.

“The government funds are overstretched and it cannot do everything despite its wish and efforts to do so,” she says. Reporter at Large learned that assistance by donors of the school had fallen far too short to satisfy its need. However, some parents were reluctant to participate in the programmes if there would be no receipt for money donated. One parent Halfani Selemani condemned the whole exercise as a ploy to collect extra money from parents.

“I am not going to give them even one contribution if they don’t give me a receipt,” Selemani told Reporter at Large after the meeting. Ms Kikwete supports Selemani’s stance by demanding that there must be a receipt issued. “How will the expenditure of the money collected be accounted for?” she asks. “In fact it is because of such collection of money without proper accounting
that we reject such projects.”

But parents like Selemani were here and far between. Others were all the more ready to enable teachers give their children better tuition. “Let us implement what we have agreed on,” said Kabida Modestu, a parent with a child at the school. Ms Kikwete says if it is the will of parents to make a donation for the school, so be it. Implementing the programmes meant that the teachers and their pupils will now have to remain on the school’s premises much longer and will therefore have a bigger need for toilets.

More toilets must be built as a result. Presently the 65 teachers share three pit latrines. To satisfy the school’s sanitation need, 94 more holes are required. Parents of Kimanga Primary School children were asked to donate 10,000/- to construct 10 more latrines. Ms Kikwete says the question of toilets shortage of Ilala schools is a grave one. “We planned to build 100 toilets this year, but then floods came and destroyed many leaving some schools with none at all. The plan is stymied now.

Do we go on with it or do we save the schools with none at all?” A German health exhibition ‘Sanitation is Dignity’ travels in developing countries putting on spotlight “one of the important, but often overlooked basic human needs access to a toilet.” The exhibition, speaking in the Internet, teaches the public about the worldwide crisis and advocates the importance of sanitation to decision makers.

Apparently, the exhibition has not been to Tanzania and Kimanga Primary School is so much ignorant of it, which means the toilet problems will continue gnawing at both the teachers and the pupils. Around 1.7 billion people worldwide still use one of the most basic forms of on-site sanitation, the pit latrine the contents of which don’t decompose fast enough or fully and the pits fill up. This seriously undermines people’s health and quality of life.”

You might be bright, but a brighter fellow exists

DEAR nephew Milambo Greetings from this confused ...


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