Masaka. At Nyendo Mixed Secondary School in Masaka Municipality, decomposing garbage lies next to the kitchen. On a closer inspection, the dormitories are dirty, congested and some students are locked inside, despite ongoing lessons.
This is one of the cases of poor sanitation standards in some schools in the area that has since become a major health concern among residents and authorities.
Following public outcry, municipal education authorities on June 24 threatened to close Nyendo SS boarding section.
However, Mr Wilberforce Kasozi, the head teacher, pleaded for more time, blaming students for failing to conduct regular cleaning of school facilities.
Mr Kasozi said the school is also financially constrained to ensure frequent emptying of the sewage sludge.
Ms Modesta Nankumba, the Nyendo-Ssenyange health assistant, says she has on several occasions warned school administrators against poor hygiene standards, but they do not take action.
Mr Joseph Mugyenyi, the managing director of National Water and Sewerage Corporation (NWSC) in Masaka region, says waste water management is still a big challenge in many schools since they are not connected to the central sewerage system.
“We only have two schools that are connected to our system because they are within the confines of our coverage. These are; Masaka Secondary School and Uganda Martyrs Primary School-Katwe,” Mr Mugyenyi says.
Consequently, waste stagnates in many school compounds or flows into neighbouring areas. Other schools channel waste in trenches on roads where it stagnates and emits a stench, causing discomfort among residents.
Masaka Municipal Council has 130 private primary schools, 121 nursery schools and 13 public primary schools.
Mr Mugyenyi advises administrators of schools not connected to the sewerage system to construct soak pits.
He says public and government-aided schools in the municipality will soon be assisted following the launch of a sanitary investment plan to increase sewerage coverage.
“Plans are underway to connect all public and government aided schools to the central sewerage system and save their neighbours from untreated waste water running through their compounds,” he says.
Mr Mugyenyi also partly blames the situation on concentrating on extending piped water to many areas at the expense of sewerage management.
Although Education officials are mandated to conduct regular school inspection to, among other things, check the sanitation, residents accuse them of failing to do their work, resulting in laxity of the head teachers.
The handbook for school inspectors (monitoring and supporting policy) requires four types of inspections to be carried out in each school.
These include; full inspection, once a year; short/routine inspections (once a term), flying visits- adhoc and follow-up inspections within 18 months from when an inspection was done.
“Some schools ought to be closed and reopened only after meeting the set standards. Some of those schools are performing well in academics and that could be the reason why inspectors fear approaching them,” Mr Eric Kayemba, a resident of Nyendo Town, says. Mr Kayemba says parents do not inspect lavatory facilities and only focus on good academic performance.
“Lavatory facilities at most schools are not regularly cleaned as required and the sewage is also poorly disposed of and some end up in neighbours’ houses,” Mr Moses Kiwanuka, another resident, says.
However, Ms Beatrice Sekiwonga, the municipality inspector of schools, says they monitor the institutions and make recommendations, but some school proprietors do not implement them.
“Some schools proprietors are proving to be big-headed, they feel unmoved whenever we threaten to close their schools,” Ms Sekiwonga says.
Mr Joseph Mugerwa, the Kimaanya Ward I representative, also a member on the social services and community committee, accuses some school inspectors of being bribed.
“Others have become stakeholders in some schools and will never inspect them even when they know things are not right. So, when they try to enforce standards in other schools, the directors will say their schools are witch hunted because others are spared,” Mr Mugerwa says.
He cites Blessed Sacrament SS- Kimaanya which has been channelling sewage in the newly constructed Yellow Knife Road.
“The inspectors seem be less bothered, and as a representative of Kimaanya Ward, I was forced to talk to the head teacher who pledged to fix the problem,” Mr Mugerwa says.
Mr Mbaaga Lukwago, the deputy head teacher, says they have since constructed a soak pit tank to absorb the waste.
However, when Daily Monitor visited the school at the weekend, the sewage was still flowing.
“That could be running rain water which could have stagnated in the channel, but we ceased channelling waste water in drainage channels on Yellow Knife Road,” Mr Lukwago says.
Ms Sekiwonga disputes the bribery allegations on the inspectors, saying: “Some school proprietors have proved to be untouchables, but it does not mean that we are bribed.”
The population in some schools in the municipality has also increased following the good academic performance, leaving the available facilities such as pit-latrines overwhelmed.
Mr Steven Kakeeto, the municipal principal education officer, says when pit-latrines get filled up fast, school proprietors spend a lot of money to empty them.
Mr Kakeeto says the pupil-stance ratio in most of the schools ranges from 1:66 to 1:212 as compared to the national average of 1:40.
Mr John Bosco Waligo, the head teacher of Leos Junior School, says the school has a banana plantation where waste water is directed and flows into different channels before it reaches the final point of collection.
According to Ministry of Water and Environment sector performance report 2017, pupil to stance ratio worsened to 71:1 from 70: 1 in 2016. The national standards for school sanitation recommend a pupil to stance ratio of 1:40. The report further indicated that only 35 per cent of the pupils have access to washing facilities, which puts their lives at risk of faecal-related diseases leading to absenteeism. According to Ministry of Health records, poor hygiene and sanitation culture in Uganda is solely responsible for 75 per cent of the sanitation-related but preventable diseases affecting Ugandans. As a result, the country loses Shs30b on treatment of sanitation and hygiene-related diseases annually.
• According to the Education Act 2008, schools should have lightning conductors and fire detection and fighting technologies in buildings and emergency exits on storied structures.
• Proper perimeter wall while those in rented premises are expected to have tenancy agreements for at least one complete cycle for their level.
•Qualified teachers, well equipped laboratories and libraries among others.
• Proper sanitation and accommodation facilities.