It takes the art of leadership to prove that poverty is much more than a lack of income or a shortage of material goods. Human poverty, the lack of basic capabilities for participating in the activities of the community, is greatly exacerbated by lack of sanitation or toilets. For a group of students or pupils living in hostels surrounded by human waste, it is stigmatizing and marginalizing. It creates embarrassment and deprives them of participation, choices and opportunities.
This sadly was the lot of the students of the Special School for the Deaf, Orodo, Mbaitoli LGA of Imo State until the Rotary Club of Aladimma, Owerri, Nigeria came to their rescue.
Before the Rotary intervention, the school which had a population of well over 350 students had no toilet facilities whatsoever. Students answering the call of nature adopted open defecation. It was a nauseating site to behold these students – male and female alike do this.
The result was that these students were accordingly deprived of some primary economic benefits linked with having toilets; and these included; saving time; reducing direct and indirect health costs; increasing the return on investments in education; and safeguarding nearby water resources etc.
The biggest element in all these was saving time. By lacking toilets at the hostels, the students spent a great deal of time each day looking for secluded places to defecate within and around the school premises. The World Health Organization estimates this time has an economic value of well over US$ 100 billion each year. Many workdays are lost to diarrheal disease –when the student is ill as well as when he is caring for a sick friend/colleague.
Other social factors concurrently addressed by Rotary’s intervention at the school were those of privacy, dignity, safety, convenience and status. The hundreds of students who must defecate behind bushes, in plastic bags, in roadside ditches face daily assaults to their human dignity. The female students are hit hardest by the absence of toilets in the school as they have their dignity vulnerable to assault by locals.
Therefore the design, building and donation of a block of Pour flush latrine in the school is a great feat. According to the contractor ; LatrineTec Ltd; a pour flush toilet is like a regular Flush Toilet except that instead of the water coming from the cistern above, it is poured in by the user. When the water supply is not continuous, any cistern Flush Toilet can become a Pour Flush Toilet.
Just like a traditional Flush Toilet, there is a water seal that prevents odours and flies from coming back up the pipe. Water is poured into the bowl to flush the toilet of excreta; approximately 2 to 3L is usually sufficient. The quantity of water and the force of the water (pouring from a height often helps) must be sufficient to move the excreta up and over the curved water seal.
The Pour Flush Toilet requires (much) less water than a traditional cistern Flush Toilet. However, because a smaller amount of water is used, the Pour Flush Toilet may clog more easily and thus require more maintenance. If water is available, this type of toilet is appropriate for both public and private applications. Pour Flush Toilets are adequate for almost all climates.
By adopting this sanitation system for this special school Rotary Club of Aladimma has shown the way to sustainability as the system needs no mechanical parts hence are quite robust and rarely require repair. The club has stepped up educational activities on cleaning and preventing the build up of organics and or/stains in the system. This education further aims to discourage the use of dry cleansing materials on the system. It can be collected separately and not flushed down the toilet.