Saturday, 18 February 2017

“My Health Is in My Hands!” School Kids Take Responsibility as BFI's WinS Project Begins

“My Health Is in My Hands!” School Kids Take Responsibility as BFI's WinS Project Begins


  My health is in my hands!My health is in my hands!
From Evbuotubu Primary school, Ugiagbe Primary school to Dayspring Nursery, Primary, Junior and Senior secondary schools, the slogan was the same: “”!  School kids affirmed their resolve. The Beautiful Feet International (BFI) WinS project is making them catch on how to take responsibility for their own health and wellness in school and at home as a good way to securing their future despite the prevailing poor environmental learning conditions they are daily being subjected to due to annual flooding, environmental degradation and government neglect which has made WASH emergency higher in the area. All the schools in the WinS project are in Evbuotubu, a flood prone community in Egor Local Government Area of Edo State, Nigeria.


The BFI team of media and development specialists in collaboration with Horizon International is currently offering WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) education outreach materials to schools in flood-prone areas of the country as an intervention. Working together with local educators, the media service of BFI is currently visiting schools in selected communities in Edo State where they engage with schoolchildren on health and wellness education. They are distributing for free WASH4All comic books and other info-graphics aimed at teaching schoolchildren the importance of clean water, good hygiene, and improved sanitation practices that will ultimately reduce the prevalence of water-borne childhood illnesses. This effort is made possible with additional support of a seed grant from The Pollination Project (TPP) and the support of individual friends of BFI.
The ongoing school-to-school youth engagement health and wellness outreach and distribution of free copies of WASH4All comics by the Beautiful Feet International (BFI) kicked off on Friday, October 14, 2016, as part of activities to mark the world Hand Washing Day 2016.  It is an innovative educational program by BFI aimed at promoting access to clean water and improvement in sanitation and hygiene in local schools.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 2.4 to 2.6 billion individuals worldwide currently lack access to clean water and sanitation facilities. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the lack of access to clean water and sanitation has resulted in an unprecedented rate of childhood death and disease, with current regional estimates indicating that one child dies every minute from water-borne illnesses, especially malaria.
Francis Odupute, BFI’s team leader with studentsFrancis Odupute, BFI’s team leader with students
The choice of Evbuotubu Primary School and Ugiagbe Primary School as the first port of call for this exercise by the BFI media service was strategic: it was the WASH challenges in these public primary schools that prompted the media research and investigative journalism reports in the Nigerian media by, which finally resulted in the conception and production of the first edition of the WASH4All comic book series by Horizon International and the MediaBFI.  
It is available for free in digital form and can be downloaded at http://www.solutions-site.org/sites/default/files/WASH%204%20All%201%20090314.pdf

The flooding situation at the Evbuotubu Primary School has entered its 19th year as community sources say. Year after year the schoolchildren learn in the conditions of a mosquito-infested environment. Their entire school premises have been overtaken by flood and bushes. The school buildings are gradually submerged in flood water. They have no access to drinking water, no functional latrine. The negative impact of the WASH situation on the health, psychology, self-esteem of these children at Evbuotubu primary school, and indeed the overall intellectual development and academic output and effectiveness of both teachers and pupils has remained a source of concern to many child development advocates.
The BFI WinS project is a creative education strategy employed by Odupute and his team to directly engage with the schoolchildren and possibly proffer temporary measures to mitigate the worsening WASH situation at Evbuotubu Primary School until more tangible help comes to the school from the government of Edo State to permanently arrest the deteriorating situation.
Background stories on the Evbuotubu Primary School flooding problems and environmental challenges in the community can be accessed online at: www.solutions-site.org/node/832; http://www.globalfreepress.org/departments/features/3956-the-evbuotubu-crisis.
The special comic book, WASH4All comics, 1st of a planned 13 editions in the series, is titled “Schoolchildren Battle Malaria and other Diseases.”  It has been offered for free download worldwide since September 16, 2014, by Horizon International and MediaBFI. However, because most of the real targets of the comics are grassroots schoolchildren who don’t have access to the internet, it became necessary to make print copies of the comics available for free to these sets of audiences in selected local schools where WASH need is among the highest anywhere in the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Students with WASH4All comic booksStudents with WASH4All comic books
In a local context, using the comic books as visual teaching aids, the BFI WinS project coordinator, Odupute and his team of creative health education volunteers graphically explain various health and environment-related issues children need to know both in school and at home in order to stay healthy and learn properly.
Some of the issues addressed in each school visited by the MediaBFI team included:
·      What personal hygiene means;
·      The importance of sanitation in the school;
·      How you can defy the flooding to keep your classes and school clean;
·      How malaria is contacted and how you can prevent malaria;
·      Why you should watch your hands regularly with soap;
·      How to properly wash your hands with soap;
·      Puberty, menstruation and sexuality, what you should know; and
·      How to be responsible for your health and wellness.

After the health talk in each school, there are question and answer sessions. Some children have asked personal health questions while others just wanted more clarification on certain terms used during the health talks.
All the children thus far reached were happy for the information they received, especially for the free comics. The pupils and students were encouraged by MediaBFI to form WASH clubs in their schools in order to put to practice all they learnt about improving the WASH situations in their school environments, and as a way to attract future visitations and support from the BFI team and other concerned people.
The school teachers also collected copies of the free comics for themselves as adult participants who wish to keep sharing with their pupils the lessons learnt from the health outreach and to help organize thriving WASH clubs with students. Their hope is to trigger a culture of cleanliness and environmental friendliness in their schools.
School heads and teachers of all schools so far visited thanked the BFI team and the sponsors of the project and asked for more of such visits in the future.

Student reads WASH4All comicStudent reads WASH4All comicAs of January 2017, the BFI WASH in Schools (BFI WinS) project has successfully fostered educative dialogue between the organizers and many schoolchildren, enlightened many children and answered some major questions they have about WASH, puberty/sexuality and other related health issues affecting young people in Nigeria – all within the prism of “edutainment” and graphic humor.  The WinS project has also enabled the organizers to interface with teachers, school heads and other relevant authorities and stakeholders, some of whom shed lights on how to make the project succeed better and how to make more impact in a sustainable way.
The project was originally named “WASH@Schools Project” by MediaBFI, but recently changed to “WinS (WASH in School) Project” as a way to align with similar efforts by the UNICEF’s global networks and efforts on the matter.
The BFI WinS project phase 1 continues till December, 2017, with the hope of engaging at least 10,000 Nigerian schoolchildren to be well informed and equipped to take proactive steps to improving their personal WASH cultures, starting from their school environments, in the spirit of securing their future, health wise. Meanwhile, the second edition of WASH4All comics series is being planned for production soon by MediaBFI and Horizon International and other partners.


 Children thanking sponsorsChildren thanking sponsors
THANKS TO THE SPONSORS! A cross section of Evbuotubu Primary School pupils (as well as their Ugiagbe counterparts, not shown here) flaunting their free WASH4All comics at the event.
 Headmistress of Ugiagbe Primary School, EvbuotubuHeadmistress of Ugiagbe Primary School, Evbuotubu

VOTE OF THANKS: The Headmistress of Ugiagbe Primary School, Evbuotubu, on behalf of her school and the Evbuotubu Primary School head, staff and pupils, appreciates the humanitarian efforts and benevolence of the BFI team, after the exercise on Friday, October 14, 2016, marking the world Hand Washing Day.
 This article and photographs are by Francis U. Odupute, Founder and head of BFI.
It was published by Horizon International on 2 January 2017.

About Beautiful Feet International (BFI):
The Beautiful Feet International (BFI) Ministry is a faith-based organization in Nigeria whose objectives include charity, youth empowerment, moral suasion/evangelism, development education and community health/WASH issues, media advocacy, and educational literature distribution, among other development efforts. Since its establishment in 1998, BFI has collaboratively networked internationally to bring about sustainable youth as well as moral capital development and wholesome living in the society, the latest of which is the CARTOON AFRICA INTERNATIONAL BIENNIAL (CAIB) festival hosted by Nigeria.
About UNICEF WASH in Schools:
"The Call to Action for WASH in Schools supports global efforts to make the vision shared by WASH in Schools partners a reality: a world where all children go to school and all schools provide a safe, healthy and comfortable environment where children grow, learn and thrive."

Monday, 13 July 2015

Improving WASH@Schools: MediaBFI Seeks Sponsorship Support As It Engages Nigerian Schoolchildren On Hand-Washing, Sanitation, Hygiene & Environmental Friendliness





We humbly solicit the financial and institutional support  of all like-minded individuals, corporate organizations, institutions and relevant stakeholders worldwide, in response to a bankable and audacious youth engagement health and wellness project: “Media for Environment, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene” (MeWASH) led by the media service of Beautiful Feet International (MediaBFI), a non-profit organization, in association with the WASH Media Network Nigeria (Edo State chapter), FIC Development Advocacy Through Arts (FICDATA), Horizon International and other implementing partners.
The project’s overall aim is to educate and enlighten the Nigerian public, spread awareness and engage young people in the fight to securing the future of our environment and the health and wellness of all our future leaders, and consequently trigger voluntary attitudinal and  behavior changes and actions that gradually lead up to a healthier society.
We are adopting communication and creative education/visual literacy approach to broaden awareness and achieve improved environmental friendliness, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) culture for all Nigerians, especially among young people of school age, through multimedia communication/creative education and health talks/interactive sessions. Our target is to engage at least 10,000 Nigerian schoolchildren and youths in achieving regular hand-washing with soap, personal hygiene and building WASH-friendly schools, within the 1st phase of this project.
Consequently, we are urgently securing a befitting contact/operational office for easier accessibility to our partners and members of the public; we are producing pictorial storytelling health fliers/info-graphics as well as compelling WASH-focused cartoons and comic books plus supplementary power- point presentations/slide shows to be used as communication tools for primary and secondary school children as well as out-of –school youths in flood-prone communities in Nigeria that we plan reaching out to. We are also developing a 2-5 minute captivating cartoon animation video on the importance of hand washing, sanitation and personal hygiene.
Already, in collaboration with one of our implementing partners, Horizon International, we have produced the 1st edition of the "WASH4ALL" comic book series now being downloaded worldwide for free at: http://www.solutions-site.org/node/1452 , and also at: http://www.cartoonafricabiennial.org/component/content/article/77-wash-premier-edition-comic-book-available-for-free-download  Also, virtual copies of the MeWASH comics/info-graphics  are already being published online at: http://mediabfi.blogspot.com   for free download worldwide in the context of health edutainment for all on how to habitually practice environment- friendliness,  develop good sanitation culture, and fight malaria and other avoidable diseases.
Moreover, as an integral part of this initiative, we have been gleaning professionally delineated WASH/environment-related cartoons, photo stories, cartoon animations, and web comics from various cartoonists and illustrators across the world that draw attention to environmental protection, water, sanitation and hygiene issues in Africa, through  the comedic public education event  “Cartoon Africa International Biennial (CAIB) festival” - the 2nd edition of which held in Benin City, Nigeria, in November, 2014. Details at: www.cartoonafricabiennial.com



Rationale:
Every minute, at least one child dies of malaria and or other water-related disease in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Nigeria with a demography that reinforces the risks in environment -unfriendly and poor WASH culture. This gruesome reality can be mitigated with greater awareness, information and education that can trigger gradual behavior changes at home and in public places to the mileage of these innocent ones.
As the World Health Organization (WHO) says, “Better management of water resources reduces transmission of malaria and other vector-borne diseases.” This revelation by WHO makes this project not only needed but indispensable:  a need for more awareness and education of the public, especially children/youths, the main victims. How we knew this need exists: over time, we made a few searches and researches, and also had some interactions with a few prospective beneficiary schools within the targeted communities in Benin City, Edo State, and in Eziawa autonomous community in Imo State, respectively.Besides, on August 28, 2012, while attending the AMCOW think tank session at the 2012 World Water Week (WWW) conference in Stockholm, Sweden, MediaBFI's Editor-In-Chief, Francis Umendu Odupute, was deeply enthused by the cross-breeding of ideas in favour of Africa’s development under the thematic framework: “FOCUS AFRICA -Water Security: Opportunities for the 21st Century; The 2025 Africa Vision”. The 2012WWW Focus Africa meeting filliped Odupute's decision to initiate possible ways of contributing to the global game-changing efforts in securing Africa of the future, especially in the context of media education and youth engagement actions on achieving sustainable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
One of the core objectives of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is to achieve global improvements in public health and productivity through aggressive public education on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) culture. Odupute thought of securing ‘Africa of the future’ and decided that if we could , in a local context, assist to positively engage youths to imbibe WASH culture improvement and positive behavior change, we would be making a relevant contribution to securing  a productive and healthy future for Africa and the world  in general.
Hence, this project will address, among other vital health issues affecting young people in Africa, the importance of preventing malaria, avoiding open-defecation, practicing regular hand-washing, the availability of clean water, imbibing good hygiene habits and more, so as to advance health and wellness among children/youths in Nigeria, as a relevant factor to securing the future of Africa’s most populous nation and the worst hit of WASH-related diseases and deaths.
Strategic Objectives:
Our plan of action includes:
- To organize health and wellness talks/seminars for Nigerian schoolchildren and youth groups on the health benefits of habitual hand-washing, sanitation and hygiene practices;
-To assist some schools with hand-washing buckets and soaps for their pupils and students’ use in imbibing WASH@school habits;
- To set up WASH clubs in as many schools as possible, collaborate with school authorities to motivate and follow up the clubs as a strategy for sustainability of any success recorded as well as to properly monitor progress as well as measure impact in the course of the first phase of this project;
-To produce and freely distribute educative and engaging WASH comic books and info-graphics as IEC materials to engage, educate and broaden WASH awareness of schoolchildren in target communities in Nigeria; some of which would be deployed as power-point presentations in schools using projector screens;
 -To develop a 5-minute short cartoon animation film on WASH targeting young people, for free distribution via the social media, projector screens, and possibly on community TV broadcasts;
 -To organize “Open Cartoon” advocacy exhibitions in schools, youth groups and relevant public spaces to foster dialogue and public education on environment, public health and wellness to engage youths and trigger  voluntary “WASH-wise” behavior changes and civic responses/actions (mostly children/youths) that result in sustainable personal and public health improvements in our homes and communities.
-To partner some community electronic/broadcast media with civic engagement talk shows to broaden awareness, better inform the public and increase civic participation in achieving WASH for all - especially children and youths, the leaders of tomorrow.
Project’s Main Target Audience:
Our main audience are boys and girls between 7 and 19 years of age in communities where WASH culture is seen to be relatively very poor, the health implications of which takes its toll on the lives and education of these children; youth groups, parents, schoolteachers, and community-leaders and health care workers are also factored into the project as major stakeholders. The project is aimed at youths because they are the future of the African society, and the main sufferers from negative consequences of malaria and other related diseases ravaging Africa today.
Relationship with Target Audience:
Our engagement with children/teenagers (adolescents) as  youth workers and social development advocates dates back to 1998 when the small group BFEC, was set up in Maiduguri, Borno State, northern Nigeria; today we are deeply involved in youth development and engagement in many fronts including literature publications/free distributions, multimedia, visual literacy/communication Arts solutions.  Recently, as part of our youth engagement strategy for broadening WASH awareness here in Nigeria, schoolchildren and university students were invited to the 2nd CARTOON AFRICA INTERNATIONAL BIENNIAL (CAIB) festival hosted by the Edo State Ministry of arts, Culture and Tourism on November 27, 2014 in Benin City, where they had fun engaging with various cartoons on WASH and the environment challenge in Africa, especially the pilot edition of  WASH4All  comics also exhibited at the event. 
Some university students like Femi Fafiolu, had theWASH4All comics downloaded into their computers during the course of the CAIB event in November, 2014. From my experiences with the youths, I got the impression that their exposure to the comic was very powerful and deeply engaging. They were talking about the importance of their sanitation and personal hygiene behavior and how good hygiene needs to become a “Habit”. More information about the CAIB event at our website: http://www.cartoonafricabiennial.org
Summary Timeline:
The project is expected kick off in September, 2015. The project will hold in selected rural, suburban and urban schools in Edo State and Imo State, Nigeria, in the 1st phase.  The first phase is expected to last for two academic sessions (approx. 22 months). We hope to empower and engage at least 10,000 Nigerian schoolchildren and youths on regular hand-washing and setting up WASH clubs to possibly collaboratively build WASH-friendly schools within the course of our project.
Within first two months of commencement of the project, we hope to set up a Working Group, made up of creative writers, and artists and other volunteers/consultants. The group will meet regularly for creative briefs aimed at researching further on the project, sharing ideas and coming up with relevant and interesting concepts for the info-graphics and good storyline for the cartoon animation story boards. In the third month, we will make advance payments for the cartoon animation video production.  Within the fourth and fifth months, the production of printed copies of the health info-graphics will be due and the slides for power-point presentation of WASH4ALL comic book will be made ready and we shall then procure a standard video projector with a projector stand and collapsible white screen. Once the projector and other gadgets are bought, our media team will test-run the power-point slide presentations and preview the cartoon animation video. Correspondence, mobilization/outreach to all stakeholders and supporters will commence.
By the sixth and seventh month, final touches will be put to logistics; correspondence to State ministries of Basic Education and Higher Education, selected schools and youth groups will end and our seminars begin. By the 10th month, the project has gone round many schools; WASH clubs are set up in each school by MediaBFI. Follow up visits and review of the project follows.
Our cartoon animation video will be shown to our target audience in every school visited through a projector screen; complimentary copies of the video will be left with each school authority for future educational use. The video will also be available on the internet for free download via YouTube, FaceBook and other social media. The schoolchildren who can access the internet will be encouraged to download the video online. The printed info-graphics will be distributed as educational flyers and posters during the WASH@Schools health outreach exercises. Power-point presentations of the info-graphics will also be used to teach the children the contents. Expected reach at phase one: 10,000 youths at least.
How Project’s Impact/Success will be measured:
A project is deemed successful when it is proven that the very reason why it was carried out has been achieved or is being gradually achieved, directly or indirectly. Expected outcome of this project include: SCHOOLCHILDREN HAVING ENHANCED KNOWLEDGE OF THE BENEFITS OF GOOD WATER, SANITATION AND HYGIENE (WASH) HABITS, AND APPLYING SAME TO THEIR DAILY LIFE IN SCHOOL AND AT HOME; PUPILS COOPERATING AMONG THEMSELVES, WITH SOME GUIDANCE AND HELP FROM TEACHERS TO MAKE THEIR SCHOOL ENVIRONMENTS WASH-FRIENDLY; YOUNG PEOPLE SHARING WASH INFORMATION IN THE SPIRIT OF PEER EDUCATION, THEREBY IGNITING BEHAVIOR CHANGE AMONG THEIR PEERS BY REGULAR HAND-WASHING, IMBIBING PERSONAL HYGIENE IN SCHOOL AND AT HOME; YOUNG PEOPLE GIVING US FEEDBACK ON HOW THEY FIND OUR INFO-GRAPHICS/COMICS USEFUL VIA CORRESPONDENCE, POSTED COMMENTS ON OUR WEBSITE, PHONE CALLS, SMS, ETC. The number of people who engaged in all listed outcome above will form the basis for measuring impact and success of the project during our evaluation and review stage.
Monitoring Strategy:
 One major follow up/monitoring strategy MediaBFI will deploy to track the outcomes of our WASH@Schools youth engagement project is the setting up of WASH clubs in most schools visited, with the cooperation and ssistance of school authorities and State Ministries of Education and other relevant stakeholders. Depending on funding availability we may subsequently establish  inter-class, and/or inter-school sanitation contests with incentives for winners ranging from fantastic little gifts and certificates of awards to media publications, invitation to MediaBFI facilitated television talk shows, etc; another follow up strategy will be in the form of partnering with target schools for free distribution of subsequent WASH education info-graphics and related IEC materials published by MediaBFI and or other stakeholders.
Budget Summary:
A total of $9,000USD (nine thousand US dollars) has been budgeted for the first phase of the WASH@Schools outreach, which includes the following costs:
* Design/printing of 10,000 copies of  a special WASH@Schools advocacy comics for free distribution to schoolchildren and other youths who can’t access the virtual version of the pilot edition of WASH4All comics series already being downloaded online worldwide for free;
*Production of a 2-5 minute cartoon animation video clip, some info-graphics, posters/teaching aids for edutainment/advocacy and creative education use in schools and youth groups during the youth engagement health outreaches;
*Renting of a befitting contact/program office for effective coordination, easier public contact and logistics during the course of the project which is expected to kick off in September, 2015;
*Purchase of video projector and screens, a power generator plus other electrical gadgets vital to effectively shoot video films, carry out PowerPoint presentations during the exercise in schools/youth groups;
*Purchase of hand-washing buckets, soaps and hand towels;
*Transportation of men and equipment to and from event venues;
*Publicity;
*Correspondence, phone calls and paper works;
*Renting of chairs tables and canopies where needed;
*Light refreshment/snacks;
*Honoraria for health education consultants, artists and other resource persons recruited for the exercises.
*Follow-up/monitoring;
*Unforeseen needs/exigencies.
 
DONATE NOW:
Make your donations via direct fund wiring to our corporate account: ZENITH BANK A/C NO.: 1012218300. Account Name: BEAUTIFUL FEET INTERNATIONAL (BFI) MINISTRY

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Evbuotubu Primary School, Nigeria: A Journalist’s Experience (1 and 2)


What is left of the school compound the children have to use for recreation and urination, etcWhat is left of the school compound the children have to use for recreation and urination, etc
         
Thursday, 27th September, 2012. 10:00a.m or thereabouts. Abies (not her real name) has just been asked out of the class. She had been down with illness and has not been in school for about a week and half now. Her peasant mother said the nurses at the health centre, (not too far from the school premises) had diagnosed stubborn malaria. But it looks like there is more to it than meets the eyes.
Abies managed to show up in school today but, midway between her classes, she began to throw up. The “Arithmetic Auntie” (subject teacher) had asked the 6 year-old girl to go out of the class so as not to vomit inside the jam-packed classroom, or possibly infect the other pupils.

...your belle dey pain you?...your belle dey pain you?

She had barely reached the corridor when her bosom friend and playmate, Kate (not her real name) also in primary 2, saw her in an unusual position and gestured curiously. “… your belle dey pain you?” Kate queried her friend in pidgin English, meaning “…is your belly aching?’’ But Abies was busy battling for her life. She held her stomach a second time in split seconds and resumed her vomiting. “Doe o!” Kate quipped in vernacular, connoting “sorry!” “Your belle dey pain you?” She asked a second time, inquisitively. “No. E dey turn me and I dey feel cold”, Abies managed to reply at last but instantly resumed the battle for her health. Just then my camera’s lenses clicked to record the ensuing drama from my (investigative) hide out.
            There is an apparent state of emergency here!
           All roads leading to the school overwhelmed by flood and erosion all year round.All roads leading to the school overwhelmed by flood and erosion all year round.

The rains this year have refused to stop and the daily misery, environmental, and health hazards and pains borne by inhabitants and indigenes of this large community and their immediate neighbors in Egor L.G.A. , Edo State, Nigeria, are now a normal ritual and culture of sorts; and if the predictions by environment and climate change experts are anything to be taken seriously, next year’s rains and its resultant flooding, erosion menace and health havocs should be worse than this year’s experience - just as this year’s rains and its resultant floods have eclipsed the 2011 flood furies in this part of the state. Alas! Here at Evbuotubu Community, the worst hit victims are school children; and unless something urgent and drastic is done now by all relevant stakeholders, the gradually submerged school buildings may soon collapse on the helpless children and their teachers. Or, at least, an imminent epidemic might break out sooner or later. Why? How?
Lectures in progress, under the mercy of mosquitoes and water-borne diseases.: WASH-unfriendly- front of school now a dump siteLectures in progress, under the mercy of mosquitoes and water-borne diseases.: WASH-unfriendly- front of school now a dump site

Minutes earlier, I was heading to the office of the headmistress of the second arm of the school, to book an appointment. The office was in the middle of a block of four classrooms, and walking across the first two classrooms to her office was very revealing. Dutiful teachers were busy teaching and writing on the chalk boards or marking books on their tables while enthusiastic kids- some of whom sat on the muddy wet floor for want of chairs to sit on - listened with rapt attention while others were too busy copying notes to notice a visitor’s presence by the corridor.
           School latrine overtaken by weeds and flood water.School latrine overtaken by weeds and flood water.
As I approached the door of the school head, pungent smell filled the atmosphere around me. I looked around the erosion-ravaged premises and the large pools of water around, looking for any dead animal in the flood water. Just then I noticed at the extreme end of the building- about half a pole from the school head’s office- an abandoned school latrine overtaken by weeds and flood water; (obviously out of use because of the erosion, the flood may have washed ashore the faeces inside the abandoned latrine onto the surface).
 “Good morning, everybody!” I politely greeted two elderly ladies chatting away in the office. “Please is this the headmistress’ office?” The fair lady seated at the far end of the room immediately responded in affirmation and reciprocated my greeting in a friendly and receptive manner, while her dark complexioned colleague seated by my right hand just kept staring at me as if I was a tax collector or one of those “area boys”.…
“I am a journalist… and also a resident of this community. I use to have my child in this school but she has passed out….” I began introducing myself and my mission. “I have been greatly concerned about the state of things in this school for a long time now but I decided to come and see what I can do to help draw the attention of those concerned in government to the plight of children in this school, even though I know there may have been various efforts regarding this in the past….”
 “Did you say your child is in this school?” the fair lady queried me.
“She used to be in this school but she passed out two years ago and now she is schooling in Asoro Grammar school,” I replied and continued, “I wanted to see the Headmistress to seek the cooperation of the school authority to carry out some research and investigation on the way this yearly flooding is impacting daily on the pupils and their academics, and to ask a few questions regarding what currently the school has done or is doing to make the government speed up efforts to keep their promise….”
While her mate just kept looking at me as though waiting to cross examine me, the fair lady cut in, “Oh that’s good… you’re welcome. The headmistress just left some minutes ago to their office in town but she will soon be back. You can still speak with her (pointing to the dark lady); she’s the vice.” My God! The same woman, who has refused to give me a welcome look let alone say anything to me, was the very one I have to speak to! I took pluck, anyway, and eyeballed her.      
“You’re a journalist, what kind of cooperation are you expecting from us?” she asked in an intimidating and suspicious manner.
“Well, I would like the school authority to permit me to observe the experiences of the school children under this heavy flooding they learn in and to take some photographs, ask you people a few questions – like how is the daily flooding of the school premises affecting the children and teachers academically and their health; are mosquitoes and other insects affecting the pupils and teachers in the classes as a result of the flooding, is the situation affecting the attitude and input of teachers to work as well as their health? All these will help me in my report about what is going on here in this school,” I explained.
“Have you been in this community or you just came newly?” the Vice Headmistress queried me again. I was yet to answer when she dropped a bombshell, “you see that I have been very reluctant to talk all this while, because it’s like you’re a stranger here. You see, I’m somebody that doesn’t like wasting my time in what will never work.” At this point I became confused and curious. Is she implying I’m on a futile mission?
            “Madam, how do you mean?” I politely asked.
            Then she opened up: “If you are old in this community you will know that the main problem of this school is the community and their leaders. In all my 33 years as a teacher I have been transferred to several communities. I have never seen a community that hates to develop. Here you have a problem that has deteriorated for several years, and yet you couldn’t do anything about it as a community, instead you are adding to the problems. All they are good and fast at is recklessly selling lands without considering the impacts on the land. They keep selling off lands indiscriminately….”
She continued, “Anywhere in the world whenever you want to sell community lands, you first of all consider three basic things: you consider school, market and hospital – these basic essential needs of the people. But here, the community leaders and the people don’t care about all of these provided they get money. And you were asking me, you want to find out if mosquitoes bite pupils and if teachers are comfortable working under this condition. I think such questions should not arise at all. From my little knowledge of elementary science, we were taught the various reproduction stages of mosquitoes breeding and multiplying and we were taught that pools of standing water is the breeding ground for mosquitoes. How much more this river and lake of erosion that has taken over the entire school compound for several years!”
“So, I’m surprised that such a question is coming from an enlightened person like you, a journalist for that matter. You also talked about how it is affecting teachers … you can see me now, I’m sitting here with hands folded. Because I’m feeling cold and you don’t have to be told that a major part of the reason is because the whole premises are filled with water. What do you expect? Anyway, we are willing to give you the cooperation you asked for but the headmistress, as you have been told, is not around now. Except you wait or come back another time.”
When will help Come?
            The deputy school head may be right - as I later got to discover. The flooding situation at the Evbuotubu Primary School has entered its 12th year, but there is nothing to show that help is in sight for these children. Year after year they learn under mosquito-infested environment. Their entire school premises have been overtaken by flood and bushes. The school buildings are gradually submerged in flood water.
More embarrassing is the fact that without a single rebuke from any teacher or school head, these children daily urinate freely on the flood water and everywhere around the few plain spots of land that show up on the school compound once the flood water wanes a little; and they, in turn swim in the infected water, eat food and snacks that fell on the infected ground, and  inhale all the stench and putrid odors emanating from the accumulated urines (and escreta) all around the smelly environment.
Lectures in progress, under the mercy of mosquitoes and water-borne diseases.Lectures in progress, under the mercy of mosquitoes and water-borne diseases.
They have no access to drinking water, no functional latrine and no playing field for recreation. And because children MUST play, they have turned private properties in adjoining roads and people’s compounds around the community into their playing fields, and play with gadgets without any checks from the  school authorities. Obviously out of the view and control of the school authorities, many of these pupils get injured in the process. They are badly-influenced and sometimes even bullied or abused with  much impunity by some bad elements in the community.
  The negative impact of the situation on the health, psychology, and self esteem of these children at Evbuotubu primary school in Egor LGA,  and indeed the overall academic output and effectiveness of both teachers and pupils are undermined by the recurrent cases of  pupils’ absentees, truancy, and illnesses like malaria and other water-related diseases such as that which  Abies and many other children in the school daily have to contend with. Alas! Who really cares? And how am I sure I’m not already embarking on yet another “fruitless” exercise, as the deputy school head has predicted?

………………………………………………………………………           
On Friday, October 11, 2012, I finally met with the Head Mistress of Evbuotubu Primary School. A cheerful, dark complexioned elderly woman of average height agreed she had been informed that a journalist visited the school and was eager to talk with her.
Without much protocol she gave me a ‘go- ahead’ order to carry out my media plan as, according to her, the school badly needed as much publicity as possible to draw fruitful attention to the plight of her pupils and staff.
Just then, almost without expecting it, she was on the hot seat in an unstructured press interview from me.
Q:  Well done, madam. What is your name ma?

A:  School Head: My names are Ogbomo Roselyn Uyi.

Q:   You’re the headmistress here?

A:  I’m the headmistress of Evbuotubu Primary School, Evbuotubu.
Q:  Your pupils have complained that mosquitoes disturb them; that they don’t have anywhere to play; that they have no toilet, and they don’t have access to water for drinking. What do you have to say to all these, madam?

A:  I don’t have much to say. What they have said, they are all true. We are appealing to the comrade Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, to please come to our aid here.

Q:   What is the community doing or what has the community done to help you people here?

A:  The community, as I may say, they have really tried their best to make sure that this flood is removed from here…So, a special appeal now, from the head teacher, the staff and the pupils, for the comrade Governor to please assist us. We know the work load on him is too much but he should please address our own.

Q:  We hear that thieves break into your offices to steal things. Is that true?

A:  O yes. They seize the opportunity of this flood to enter the school premises to do whatever they like. Because the school is lonely, there is no entrance; it’s not fenced and you cannot move round the way you actually want to move round. That is why all the people they come in when they like and go out when they like.

Q:  So far, has anything been removed from your office by the thieves?

A:  Ehn…it’s only when the water entered the office it destroyed documents.

Q:  Now your children have complained they don’t have place to play. That’s why they roam the streets and spoil people’s belongings here?

A:  Yes…yes…no playing ground, and there’s no room for sports.

Q:  Is that why they always fill all the streets in this vicinity and play in people’s compounds?

WILD RECREATION-pupils liter the streets daily during break.WILD RECREATION-pupils liter the streets daily during break.
A:  
As you know, children are supposed to exercise themselves round, especially when they are on break. So, there is nothing you can do to stop them from playing; they need it!

Q:  Some of them said that they do urinate anywhere in the compound if they are pressed and that they go to nearby bushes to excrete openly when they need to obey the call of nature. Will that not endanger their health and their lives?

A:  Ennn…there is no other thing they can do because once they are pressed they have to ease themselves. So they do it anywhere they like.

Q:  And because there are no places here, you people don’t know what to do again other than to just leave them…?

A:  Yes. There is no place.

Q:  I hear that normally you people ought to be overseeing the children, to know their movements and make sure that nobody gets wounded or goes anywhere…but because of this situation you are not able to monitor the pupils again and they move around wherever they please and you are not aware of where your children go to.

A: We try our best to do what we can. Sometimes we run after them, we guide them to make sure they’re in.

Q:  But so far there has not been any case of maybe… casualty?

A:  No…nothing like that.

Q:  Is it true that when the rain is too much here you send your children to run home?

A:  No. We don’t send them to run home, we keep them in the classes. When the rain subsides we ask them to go.

Q: That could be dangerous! What if these flood-ridden buildings collapse one day under the rain?

A: We don’t pray for that.

Okay! Thank you very much, madam.


Need for Interventions in School W.A.S.H Education and Awareness Creation:
                                                                                                                                           
Flooding apart, environmental awareness, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) education and culture this reporter observed at Evbuotubu Primary School is grossly low -a microcosm of the Nigerian rural and sub-urban situation.  Prior to speaking with the school head, I had taken a random tour of various classrooms in the school and observed there was no trace of any sanitation facility inside or outside the classrooms to help children imbibe sanitation culture. In a school prone to environmental/ health emergencies due to the perennial flooding, one would expect that the school authorities would be more concerned and alert to put certain measures in place to reduce the risk factors that may cause the pupils to easily contract air-borne and water-borne diseases from the flooded school environment.

Agreed, it may be the Comrade Governor’s duty to provide the huge financial resources to take care of the over- a- decade flooding of Evbuotubu Primary School, but is it also the Comrade Governor’s duty to teach school children the virtue of hand-washing, appropriate disposal of wastes around the school premises and the need to stop open urination at every spot on the school premises? The flood may be responsible for the lack of a functional school latrine, but the flood is definitely not responsible for the non-provision of waste paper baskets and wash hand basins in all the classrooms to inculcate cleanliness culture in the children even if  their school is gradually submerged in flood.

Also, some members of the community may be blamed for dumping the various fetish items of religious sacrifices I was shown all around the school premises (which scares the children and results in pungent smells in addition to the smelly flood water), but who is to really blame for turning the front of the school -the only dry spot in the school- into a dump site where children also go to urinate, defecate and dispose of wastes? A huge waste-container, placed at a strategic dry spot in the school compound, should have taken care of this avoidable indifference to environmental sanitation for schoolchildren in an apparent emergency situation like this at Evbuotubu Primary School.

Some of the children I interviewed told me they have no access to drinking water. If the school authorities are well educated about the health implication of this, and the child’s human rights dimensions to it, they should improvise a means of making water available in small buckets and jerry cans in each class for drinking and hand washing. This is an integral part of the school system which I once experienced in my primary school days in a community primary school. All over the country today, these important WASH awareness and school environmental sanitation measures/practices have been jettisoned by many, especially in rural areas.

By FRANCIS UMENDU ODUPUTE  

Francis Umendu Odupute 2012 World Water Week award winner in the cartoon/photo category: is an artist, a writer and a journalist with The Nigerian Observer Newspapersin Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria, where he heads the Arts/cartoon section and doubles as the Arts/Culture Editor of the Newspaper.  Photograph courtesy of Francis OduputeFrancis Umendu Odupute 2012 World Water Week award winner in the cartoon/photo category: is an artist, a writer and a journalist with The Nigerian Observer Newspapersin Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria, where he heads the Arts/cartoon section and doubles as the Arts/Culture Editor of the Newspaper. Photograph courtesy of Francis Odupute