How unhygienic toilets put varsity students in harm’s way in Kogi
Students of Kogi State University live in hostels where toilets are unhygienic and the institution administrators are unconcerned. KINGSLEY JEREMIAH reports
Sarah Ojotule’s (not real name) admission into Kogi State University about four years ago was a dream-come –true.
She saw the offer as one of the best things that could ever happened to her because she had spent long time at home waiting to be admitted.
After registrations, Ojotule decided to reside at the popularly female hostel, Inikpi, named after the daughter of the Attah Igala of Igalaland. Inikpi was said to have voluntarily submitted herself to be buried alive for the liberation of the land during the Igala-Benin war.
Ojotule had reasoned that living in the hostel would be cheaper to afford; and easier for her to avoid distraction of living off-campus.
“I was determined to graduate in flying colours,” she said. She was also worried about poor security outside the campus.
But living in the hostel brought problem she did not expect.
Toilets in the hostels are damaged and she is forced to defecate in the open like other students. And on regular basis, she is infected and her health was badly affected.
She became a regular face in the university’s clinics and pharmaceutical shops. This is the situation for thousands of other female students in the school.
“Anytime the infection is manifesting, I usually feel like my private part is on fire. I also see unusual discharges. I feel so uncomfortable. It is worst during the period of examinations. I hate being in the public because it is shameful and disturbing.
“But I am already getting accustomed to such feelings and virtually all the ladies in the hostel are going through similar problem.
“Now when I start feeling like I have infection, I pour boil water into a bucket, add a little salt and Dettol and sit on it. The steam that comes out help to relieve the pain,” Ojotule said.
She said she is not aware of any side effect of the practice, because that is what people do. ”I was told it helps and I have to do everything to avoid infections.”
Ojotule and 125 other students randomly selected from the hostel, who responded to questions from The Guardian are already infected with Candidiasis, pelvic inflammatory diseases, vulvovaginitis and trichomoniasis.
All the students, majorly in their final year said the toilets are the worst they have seen in recent time.
At least 55 per cent of them, who are basically between the ages of 21 and 25, still use the toilets in spite of its unsanitary state, while others avoid the toilet totally. They instead practise open defecation.
The university ladies are among the 62 percent Africans that lack access to improved sanitation according to World Health Organisation.
The UN agency noted that about 2.6 billion people around the world who live without access to hygienic toilets are vulnerable to a range of health risks.
he situation is a major cause of diarrhoea, the second biggest killer of children in developing countries, and leads to other major diseases such as cholera, schistosomiasis, and trachoma, WHO reported.
Ojotule finds herself in the hospital at least two times in a month treating candidiasis. She spends average of N10, 000 for every single treatment.
Though she has health insurance incorporated into her school fee, the school clinic never meets up with treatment as she is always referred to get drugs elsewhere.
When she returned home recently for break, she was admitted at the Defense Intelligence Hospital in Abuja for comprehensive treatment. And her medical report indicated toilet infection.
For her and other students, finding clean toilet to defecate on campus is number one challenge daily. Indeed, Ojotule tries everything possible to avoid the toilets.
Her other option is to get a polythene bag, defecate inside and throw the mess from her window or a popular spot marked for ‘shortput’. Shortput is the general slang the students use to describe open defecation.
Nigeria’s global ranking on the index of open defecation is on the increase, according to WHO. With 34 million people practicing open defecation, Nigeria has the second highest figure in Africa and stand at the fifth in the world.
“You cannot just stand up and freely work into the toilet to defecate. You have to think about it for a while and gather enough muscle. It is the worst experience we face daily,” Ojotule said.
There are 26 persons to one toilet in KSU
Inikpi hostel was constructed about 18 years ago, when the then Governor of the State, late Prince Abubakar Audu established the school.
The three-floor building has about 125 rooms. Though eight students per room was approved, average of 10 students are allocated to a room, bringing total number of occupants to about 1,250 to a building. There are 48 toilets in all and about 26 students to a single toilet.
Despite the number of student to a toilet, the facilities have fallen apart. The last time there was major renovation in the school was about four years ago.
Since then, the condition has gone worse. The non-teaching staff who are responsible for cleaning the facility from Monday – Friday, often time, demonstrate apathy.
The cleaners hardly show up and when they do, they hardly come with cleaning material. Several times, the cleaners have also downed tools over unpaid salary running to 13 months. The students alleged that cleaners sell cleaning materials to augment personal incomes.
Ojotule said the situation is worsened by water shortage, forcing the cleaner to either use dirty water or ration the small quantity they have.
“We wash our cloths and keep the dirty water. That is what we flush with. This complicates the situation. You can’t differentiate when the toilets are clean, they are perpetually dirty,” she said.
Ojotule’s schoolmate, Blessing Olowolayemo and Halima Ipemida (not their real names) did everything possible to avoid infections. They said they never used the toilets until the last year in the university.
They both bought a potty where they defecate into and trash. Still, they suffer toilet infections. The students complained that their demands for medication on infections have never been met.
Ipemida said the state of the toilet would never change because it has been that poor for the past four years. She insisted that open defecation is a better option.
The Medical Director in charge of the school clinic, Busayo Agbana declined comments on the issue, saying he has no authority to talk to the media.
The university’s PRO, Joshua Edogbo also was not forthcoming. Several reminders sent to him via email@example.com and his phone line, 08069617856 were ignored.
The Guardian eventually reached out to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Mohammed Sanni Abdulkadir, through his mobile number, 08065274124 and he responded saying, “Are you an investigative journalist? I don’t work that way, forward your request in writing.”
The Guardian later forwarded questions to Professor Abdulkadir on his official email address firstname.lastname@example.org but he has not replied two weeks until this publication.
Notwithstanding, The Guardian learnt that the school spends about N2 million on drugs monthly. Drugs on toilet infection top the stock of the clinic after malaria drugs.
The commonest infections in the school include Candidiasis, pelvic inflammatory diseases, vulvovaginitis and trichomoniasis.
The Centre for Disease Control said, one out of eight women with a history of pelvic inflammatory disease experience difficulties getting pregnant.
Figures from College of Medicine, University of Ibadan disclosed that about 1.5 million people in Nigeria are affected by vulvovaginitis and another 1.5 million affected by trichomoniasi and related infections.
Olowolayemo said the situation was frustrating because the toilets and kitchens in the hostel were built next to each other. While the students try to avoid the toilets, they also have to deal with the stink that comes directly into their kitchen and rooms.
When asked why they didn’t come together to clean up, Olowolayemo insisted that situation was beyond them. ”There is no water to even flush and no one would forfeit the tight academic schedule and focus on cleaning up.
If anything will work, a cleaner has to stay and clean regularly provided there is water and cleaning material,” she insisted.
Maria Goretti Hospital, Good Shepherd Hospital, Cuzark Pharmacy, Alphacare Pharmacy and Chucks Medicine and Cosmetic stores are major private outfits where the students seek medical help.
The Medical Director, Maria Goretti Hospital, Dr Orongbe Lucky said cases of toilet infections by the students are recorded daily in the hospital. Three out of every five students that visit the hospital report toilet infection.
At Good Shepherd Hospital where students spend an average of N10, 000 to treat infections, cases are basically referred from the school clinic if they cannot be handled.
The Medical Director of the hospital, Agbo Chukwuma, said the hospital record such cases daily. At Chucks Medicine and Cosmetic stores, at least three cases are reported daily from students.
Most students are unable to pay for recommended drugs, which sell for an average N5000 per pack depending on the nature of the infection.
Statistics from Cuzark Pharmacy and Alphacare are similar with figures released by Chucks Medicine and Cosmetic.
How toilet infections affect women
Dr Lucky said the infections around the vagina are usually caused by poor hygiene, especially the use of toilets with candidiasis organism and lack of proper care. It could degenerate and cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), responsible for infertility in women, the medical expert said.
A former student, now lecturer at the university, who pleaded anonymity, told this reporter that some of the students who had graduated from the school expressed their frustration in trying to become pregnant.
The lecturer, who unofficially doubles as a counsellor said the students, traced their plight to toilet infection they suffered, while they were students in the university, which include vaginal yeast infections, gonorrhea, chlamydia, non infectious vaginitis, viral vaginitis.
Self-medication threatens lives of student
Lucky insisted that the disease may not be destructive but could worsen as a result of self-medication, leading to the removal of vaginal floral.
He said, vaginal flora or vaginal microbiota are the microorganisms that colonize the vagina, noting that the amount and type of bacteria present have significant implications for a woman’s overall health.
“When they self-medicate they will remove vaginal floral and open the vaginal to danger from other diseases and that will affect them negatively. What it affects the most are the tubes.
This is where the foetus will attach to after fertilization and the fallopian tube is where fertilization takes place. If these are distorted, obviously you will know that fertility will be a problem,” Lucky said.
Therefore, for as long as open defecation continues in Kogi varsity, the female students will continue to be among the statistics of those vulnerable to risk of serious diseases.