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Girls’ attendance increases with sanitation in schools

School girls washing hands
© UNICEF Nigeria/2007/Nwosu
Zilfa’u Sada (centre) and her friends wash their hands after using the toilet facilities at their school.

Zilfa’u Sada is one of only two girls currently attending the sixth grade at Unguwar Makera Primary School, in Katsina State. Only two out of the sixteen girls enrolled in primary one made it to the sixth grade, compared to 18 boys. The other fourteen girls dropped out.

This is a common trend in primary schools in Northern Nigeria. Several factors are responsible for this. Poverty and early marriage are some of them; the lack of toilets and water facilities in the schools is another.

Ninety percent of the 120 schools, currently supported by the Girls’ Education Project in Katsina State, did not have toilets and water at the inception of the project in December 2004. Unguwar Makera, the school Zilfa’u attends, was one of such schools. Girls are particularly affected by this situation. In the words of Zilfa’u, “boys find it easier to go behind a tree or some bush to ease themselves during school hours. As a girl, you feel too shy to do so because you need privacy.”

The only option left for girls was to walk back home to use the toilet. Some of them never return to school the same day. “My elder friends don’t come to school when they have their monthly period and because of that, they gradually stop coming to school at all,” explains Zilfa’u. With the intervention of the Girls’ Education Project, separate blocks of toilets for boys and for girls as
well as a borehole are provided to each of the 120 schools. For the girls of Unguwar Makera Primary School, life has changed.

As for Zilfa’u, her excitementis clear: “We don’t need to go home to ease ourselves anymore and this has encouraged us to come to
school regularly now. We also have privacy because our toilets are different from those of the boys. We have been taught to wash our hands after using the toilets through the School Environmental Health clubs.”

Her remarks are corroborated by Ibrahim Lawal, the Head Teacher of the school: “We underrated the impact of a toilet,” he says, adding that since the toilet blocks were built by UNICEF, girls’ attendance has improved.

Hygiene at school
© UNICEF Nigeria/2007/Nwosu
Zilfa’u Sada demonstrates proper hygiene practices outside the school's toilet facilities.

 

 
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