By Peter Abaanaasazi
“Some of us are forced to ease ourselves in the nearby bush due to lack of privacy since we share a pit latrine with boys and teachers,” Joy Kemigisa, a primary six pupil (girl) at Bulera Demonstration Primary School in Hoima Municipality, says.
That is the appalling state under which many government-aided primary schools are operating under in Hoima district.
She said that after the latrine meant for the boys sank in, the teachers ordered them to share with boys the four stance pit latrine.
“Some of us are shy; we feel uncomfortable to ease ourselves in presence of boys, so we decide to go to the bush,” she added.
Kemigisa is one of thousands of pupils under Universal Primary Education (UPE) that are facing a stinking situation due to inadequate latrine facilities in Hoima district.
Different school’s pit latrine are filled up because of being overused, while others sank in, leaving many teachers and pupils with no option apart from sharing the few latrines and using the nearby bushes.
Statistics indicate that with 135 governments aided schools in Hoima district, 40% of them lack appropriate latrines, while out of 33 governments aided schools in Hoima Municipality, 20% of them lack modern and adequate latrines.
According to education policy, a latrine ratio for boys is 40 and for girls is 25 but in Hoima it is different with one stance pit latrine being used by over 60 pupils.
Some of the affected primary schools include Duhaga Girls, Bulera Demonstration, Bujwahya, Kiduma and Butebere in Hoima Municipality and Kasenyi, Kabaale, Kyohairwe, Kigaaga, Tonya and Muhwiju in Hoima district among others.
This situation is putting the health of the children and teachers at stake with the likelihood of cholera and typhoid outbreak in the affected schools.
Joseph Muhumuza, the School Head Teacher of Bulera Demonstration School said the school’s pit latrines meant for boys sank in early last year. He noted that the school with an enrolment of 250 is currently sharing four dilapidated stance pit latrine.
He explained that Health officials recommended for the closure of the school, adding that despite such recommendation and several petitions by his office to Hoima Municipal Authorities for intervention, they have failed to respond.
“Education policy doesn’t allow boys and girls to share a pit latrine, but we have no option than forcing them to share when nature calls,” he noted.
He noted that the situation is forcing pupils mostly girls to drop out of school.
Officials at Nyarugabu Primary School in Kiduma ward, Busiisi division in Hoima Municipality said the school has been facing a challenge of sanitary facilities since 2014.
The school that has an enrolment of 220 pupils and nine teachers depends on a single five stance pit latrine.
Three latrine blocks with 13 stances collapsed two years ago, an official said.
Since 2014, the school management has petitioned different stakeholders including the Hoima Municipal Education Department to come to their rescue, but their pleas have yielded nothing good.
Moses Ayebale, the School Head Teacher at Duhaga Girls said that over 320 pupils at the School are currently using a five stance dilapidated pit latrine.
He adds that the school had 15 stance pit latrine, but they all collapsed because of being overused. He noted that school has been in crisis since last year, adding that his office has appealed for government intervention in vain.
Rosemary Birungi, the Head Teacher at Muhwiju Primary School, says both pupils and teachers at her school share the only available seven stance pit latrine that was recently constructed by parents.
Responding to the challenges, the Hoima District Education Officer, Godfrey Sserwanja said that their resource envelop is too small to cater for hygiene and sanitation needs of all schools
He noted that government is lacking funds to construct pit latrines in all 135 primary schools and urged parents to come in and save the situation for the good of their children.
“Construction of pit latrines in schools is a responsibility of government and filling all those school with pit latrine may not be easy, so it is inadequate funding that is the problem, but I think the parents should come in and assist,” he said.
Robert Rukahemura, the Programme Officer at African Centre for Trade and Development (ACTADE), an organization advocating for education and health in Hoima district castigates government for failing to come to the rescue of the schools.
He added that many schools have no water to wash their hands after visiting the available few pit latrines and this exposes them to diseases caused poor sanitation such as diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera.
“It is a regret for government to fail to meet its own standards; this situation is compromising the health and academic performance of pupils because they spend most of their time lining up for a pit latrine, but my appeal is that let parents work with school administrators to put up pit latrines as they wait for government ones,” he said.