Why are officials still giving permits for buildings without toilets?

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari
Why are officials still giving permits for buildings without toilets?

One of the most shocking statistics I have come across in recent times is that as many as over 7,000 public schools in Ghana have no toilets. Thus, when in need the children, and presumably the staff too, have to go into nearby bushes!

A Ghana Education Service survey has revealed that out of 21,438 public basic schools, more than 7,400 have no toilets.

More distressing still, some of the children, perhaps too young to make it into the bushes, “ease on themselves”.

The above is not a reference to a long-ago situation or a passage from a history book on the Gold Coast. This is the situation in present-day Ghana! The Ghana of the latest model of cars in the world seen on our roads, the Ghana of palatial mansions; the Ghana of luxury shopping malls, Kentucky Fried Chicken and, now, Burger King ‘eateries’.

As reported by the Modern Ghana online site recently:

“The 2017 Education Management Information System (EMIS) report by the Ghana Education Service (GES) revealed that out of 21,438 public basic schools in Ghana, 35 per cent have no toilet facilities.

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“This represents more than 7,400 public basic schools and an estimated two million pupils affected in those schools.

“This means that two million Ghanaian children in those schools alone are compelled to resort to unorthodox open spaces mostly within the immediate surroundings of their schools.

“A 2014 Ghana Statistical Service report indicates that about 3,000 Ghanaian children die annually through diarrhoea alone. A WaterAid report also indicates that about 95 per cent of menstruating school girls miss school when there is no clean toilet at school. (Emphasis added.)

“It is (against this) background that the Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) has given the Government a two-year ultimatum to (provide schools with toilets.)

“The Vice Chairman of CONIWAS, Mr. Atta Arhin, said they support the demand by the Media Coalition against Open Defecation that the Government must ensure that every school in Ghana, public or private, has access to a clean and hygienic toilet by the end of December 2020.

“He (said it is) evident that successive governments and the GES have paid too little attention to the issue.

“In the 2013/2014 EMIS report generated by the GES, 69 per cent of all basic schools (public and private) had access to toilets.

“Data from the same source in 2017 also indicates that this had increased by only one per cent while access to toilets in public basic schools increased by 5 per cent that of private basic schools rather reduced by 2 per cent, implying that some new private schools had been built without a toilet within the period. (Emphasis added.)

“If this trend of one per cent improvement in five years should continue, it will take Ghana 150 more years for all basic schools to have access to improved toilet facilities.”

However, “a study conducted by Professor Kwabena Nyarko and Dr Eugene Appiah Effah of the Department of Civil Engineering of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology found that Ghana needs only U$420 million to provide decent toilets to all public basic schools in Ghana.

“And since 65 per cent of all public basic schools already have a toilet it means an investment of about US 147 million can cater for the remaining 35 per cent. (Emphasis added.)

Mr. Atta Arhin said they believe that this is an amount the Government can easily raise to address this unfortunate situation even in a single year.”

He added: “We are convinced that if the Government decides to prioritise this, every basic school in Ghana will have access to a clean and decent toilet facility within one year,” the report stated.

I have written a number of articles in this column on the urgent need to provide toilets in homes and schools. Furthermore, intermittent reports over the years had led one to suspect that the sanitation situation in our public schools, was grim but I doubt that people guessed that it was this bad.

What on earth could be the rationale for any architect to design a school building, or any building for human occupation and usage, for that matter, without including toilets? Also, how could any contractor accept to build a school without toilets?

Surely, it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science, or a Nobel Prize winner, to know that as children arrive in school early and leave late, they will definitely need to use a toilet at some point during the day.

In fact, if a child didn’t need to use a toilet daily during the five school days, their parents would have to take them to see a doctor.

Crucially, how do those officials expect the adolescent girls to manage in school when they are menstruating?

Yet, ironically, the Government is currently spending money on a national campaign against open defecation when the nauseating practice is, by implication, sanctioned in so many schools because they have been built without toilets!

But should it have taken the GES so long to conduct the assessment?

Fortunately, there are some hopeful developments. Reportedly, a lot of initiatives have been launched by the assemblies and the Government, some with the support of the World Bank, to assist households and schools without toilets with the construction.

However, this issue has been under discussion for far too long! It persists because erring officials are not punished, although it could be that money that should have gone into constructing toilets for some schools and other public structures went into private pockets.

It is time to make the decision-makers involved in school building projects take responsibility for their actions and inactions. Those people must answer for their scandalous negligence.


I agree with CONIWAS that it can be done: “We are convinced that if the Government decides to prioritise this, every basic school in Ghana will have access to a clean and decent toilet facility within one year.”

Provision of toilets in all the deprived schools has to be on the Government’s priority list.

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