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Opinion | Feb 16, 2019

Sanitation, Ghana, Africa: Heaven?

By Coffie Confidence
Sanitation, Ghana, Africa: Heaven?

A flashback with clear memories into the 90s and early 2000s, where we had a fairly effective Town and Country Planning Department and Council Officers; the problem of sanitation and hygiene was at its barest minimum in my neighborhood. In fact, at the mention of the name “Tancas” (referring to the Town and Country Planning/Council Officers), every knee must bow. This made most people more conscious about their environments and health.

Woe unto you, if out of your negligence, mummy or daddy were fined for not keeping their environment clean: hmm, “the punishment alone”. I also remembered how my colleagues complained their parents reduced (Set-Offs) their feeding fees because they were fined by the Town and Country Planning Officers for making their homes and its environ dirty. Whiles our “Human right Activist” may claim this (the “punishment and set-off”) constitute an abuse; instead, it saved us a lot: why? Because the monies paid as a fine would have been used to provide good shelter, food, pay school fees; buy clothes, shoes, books, etc. to aid in our upbringing, if not for our negligence.

Also, it saved the country a lot of fortune, how?: instead of spending the limited resources to fumigate and finance the treatment of poor sanitation-related diseases, These monies can/could be used to provide more infrastructures and social amenities.

Furthermore, the Local Government Ministry, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies must collaborate with other stakeholders as part of their measures and innovation to prevent the defacing of walls and beauty of our cities, towns and villages. There must be a complete ban on the poor sighting of signposts and flyposting on walls, trees, street light poles, electrical transformers and poles, etc.

Alternatively, the government or assemblies can seize the opportunity to regularize the sighting or installation of “Digital Bill Boards” at very strategic locations like markets and public centers for individuals or organizations to advertise their events or products for a fee which also serves as another source of revenue to the assemblies and government for development. Again, notice boards can be mounted at strategic points for persons to display their posters after paying some token or made for free.

With regards to the payment or collection of fees for advertisements, special revenue offices can be opened across for payments and other access. Also, secured online platforms can be created for payments complemented with electronic money transfers such as mobile money services.

With regards to the above, qualified personnel will be employed to serve as monitoring officers who shall check for expired posters and adverts (to be replaced by new ones) as well as illegal advertisements. This initiative alone shall provide a lot of employment in areas like Accountants, Cashiers, database officers, networking officers, designers, security/task forces, monitoring and inspection officers, drivers, etc. instead of continually pushing people into the already choked offices causing a lot of idle time, overlapping and duplication of jobs, responsibilities, wastages, etc. which turns to affect us as a country.

In order to deal with the current canker of people and institutions defacing the country with their posters and banners, the contact details published on this poster must be tracked and the culprits arrested, made to pay for the damages or be made to face trial and sentenced if necessary. In this regards, our leaders must establish more special courts to deal with different cases to reduce the pressure on the current ones. This shall improve and lead to speedy service delivery (Trials) and reduced corruptions and stress at our courts due to delays.

Another instance is to make sure landmarks like bridges, overpasses, etc. or heritages constructed are well designed in national or suitable colors instead of leaving them in their raw state to prevent persons from using them as notice boards or advertising centers.

It is very sad walking some neighborhoods only to see people channeling their bathwater into gallons which is later dispose onto the streets. If you question them, they tell you: they are not to be blamed since there are no drainage systems for them to discharge waste water into. A simple outcome of this activity is that; continues pouring or discharging of these waste water onto the streets and roads eventually results in erosion or depletion of the streets or roads which as well comes with cost to the state. This may also cause some health related problems to the residents themselves, especially children who play in the sand or along such areas.

Alternatively, I believe an intensive and continue public education will help reduce the instances of poor sanitation but public education without law enforcement and discipline cannot work. As a country, we can strategically install cameras at various areas to capture offenders who must be made to face the laws or due process. These cameras can equally serve other important purposes like assisting the security agencies in tracking and fighting crimes.

In this 21st Century: claiming “to know more than our forefathers". My fellow youths, are we not supposed to “enlighten” our parents? But, it seems we are rather misleading them...

Our leaders are not eager to provide the necessary infrastructures to harness the issues forgetting that solving this issue shall automatically solve other issues like unemployment and increased revenue for development. Hmm, what exactly is the problem?

I remembered while teaching somewhere in Ghana: I asked my students why they prefer open defecation to close? And most answered: Sir, “Please it is in our DNA, we can’t stop”, for others, it is refreshing and it makes them feel more relax especially with the fresh air blowing around them. After months of observing the strange pattern, I noticed there are lots of facilities built by philanthropist for the community and schools to be used as places of convenience but all these facilities are ignored. Also, most landlords do not provide toilet facilities in their homes. Interestingly, most people in the few homes with toilet facilities do not use it but prefer using the bushes.

Upon further reflection, I realized the answer, “Sir, please it is in our DNA” to a large extent is real and the truth. Why?

Scenario: Imagine seeing adults defecating in bushes with their children either waiting by observing or doing same. Others who are “scared of the bush” either use or give polythene/ plastic bags to their children to defecate into them. These, some do with the courtesy of hiding themselves properly from the sight of by-passers but others, hmm … and this is simply because, they are not punished for these acts. They continue with these habits neither do they advise their wards not to engage in the act. Unfortunately, the children see it to be a good practice and habit; hence the continual “DNA” problem.

I belief the sanitation problem in our country has matured beyond only public education, people must be made to take responsibility for dumping refuse or garbage indiscriminately. Institutions must begin to effectively collaborate among themselves beginning from the assemblies to the security agencies, the court in such order. The government must also make sure the necessary logistics and infrastructures are provided as well as engage other stakeholder institutions to continue their campaigns and educations. The media must also be fully engaged. The “Tancas” regime I think is still relevant. Some decisions need to be reviewed to allow for effective discipline and upbringing of children especially in schools for the future, instead of fighting for political popularity with such decisions.

Back in the Primary and Junior High Schools (from the 90s to early 2000’s), our teachers played very significant role in ensuring discipline with regards to sanitation. How? They grouped the whole school into sections with each student belonging to a section and each section having a sectional leader. The school compound was divided among all the sections with the responsibility to ensure its cleanness and tidiness. In fact “woe” onto any section and its leader if at the end of the week, their section become last from the marks allotted on daily basis by the teachers specifically assigned with that responsibility. The teasing from the other sections alone sometimes were enough punishment. Aside punishments, sometimes awards were presented to the winners to serve as a form of incentive. But the disciplinary measures put in place enabled student to become “Tancas” by checking fellow students who shall litter or throw rubbish indiscriminately around. Consciously and unconsciously, this positive culture was passed on to the community and implemented by majority of students in their daily lives (by becoming more conscious about the environment). Our forefathers were greatly aware of the relevance of disciplinary actions such as “principled corporal punishment”, etc. and its effect in bringing up the "African child" thus why they introduced them into our educational system, but gradually this is collapsing and this has caused most teachers to neglect the children in school. This is also making the current youths to lose out on the basics upon which our society was successful and brought up.

A chat with some teachers on why they “careless” or turn lukewarm towards the children in recent times will reveal it’s because of some decision taken by our leaders and the response of parents to these decisions or policies. Unfortunately, most parent and leaders in the name of “civilization” and with the aid of some “Human right Activist” are gradually been made to believe that teachers correcting their wards corporally or otherwise is wrong. I must acknowledge that indeed some teachers abuse their power or authority but I think more realistic measures can be put in place to deal with such flash unfortunate occurrences.

In all, I think it is these small disciplines that comes together to shape the child who then becomes a responsible adult (citizens). They become good citizens who shall not indiscriminately dispose or defecate anywhere and great leaders who shall ensure that the right things are done whiles providing the necessary infrastructures and amenities. They are able to advice and train their children so they become responsible as well resulting in the complete change in societies, nation and continent.

Some countries are now turning the misfortunes of rubbish or waste into fortunes; some are able to recycle glass bottles into building materials, plastic/polythene bags in other artifacts, and many more. Rubbish are now used by some for lots of developmental projects but we are still lacking behind.

To add, until that bold decision is taken by our leaders to ban and make provisions that prevent street sellings, our streets will continue to be dressed in filth. Persons must be banned from selling on pavements/streets and that bold decision must be made to stop allowing these persons from coming back onto our streets during election eras upon their baseless treats.

It is unfortunate a great country like Ghana still struggles in dealing with sewage and plastic disposals. A stroll along beaches, high and feeder roads, parks and forest reserves, residential, public and recreational facilities will reveal how bad the situation steers.

City and town planning authorities approve permits for the construction and siting of structures or buildings without considering and ensuring that proper provisions are made for waste management either sewage or solid. It is very sad to see Ghanaians competing most especially early morning for space at public toilets to make themselves comfortable. Who is failing in his or her responsibilities?

Another major cause of the poor sanitation in Ghana and Africa is poor settlements or layouts. The increasing slums and dispersed style of settlements makes people careless about their environment. This as well makes it difficult for authorities to provide “adequate equipment and logistics as well as effectively monitor to enforce the laws on sanitation”. Ironically, it is these same authorities who allowed these problems to emerge.

It is expected that, as “religious” as Ghanaians and Africans are; by the mention of good sanitation, every “knee” must bow to us. But the situation is directly the opposite. My spiritual and religious Ghanaians and Africans, please where have we hidden the saying “Next to Godliness is Cleanliness”?

The question about what our political leaders are doing to harness the situation, I think the least said, the better for now because they are perfectly aware of the situations. The “Will Power” is just missing from their books, hoping they find him to help mother us sooner”.

Fellow Ghanaians (Africans), I think we can re-adopt (Sankofa) and modernize the ancient style used by our grandfathers: they dug suitable and well covered pit at a strategic location on their compound where they burn their solid wastes. This we can change by constructing small “bricks burning houses” where we can be burning our solid wastes. A community or area can organized to construct a suitable “bricks burning center” where everyone shall send their burnable solid wastes to be burnt. The governments can also prioritize this concept by either promoting it or including it in their districts development plans by constructing more “ Covered Burning Sites” instead of the over reliance on the aged “landfill” sites. It must be “covered” to prevent harmful gases from causing global warming and other environmental pollution effects.

Moreover, the styles and sizes of our drainage systems are questionable. This also contributes to our sanitation problem hence the need to modernize and check this to prevent not only flooding but other related issues.

The current trends of converting residential areas into commercial areas must be planned very well to check traffic, waste disposals and other future occurrences. The plans for these buildings must include enough parking space and waste management systems to prevent future troubles. Alternative, separate adequate parking spaces can be provided.

The transport companies and stations managers must draft and implement rules and regulations that ensure all vehicles provide waste bins for passengers or occupants so they don’t thrown rubbish onto our roads or streets as well as into bushes along roads. This idea may also be adopted by vehicle manufacturers to consider designing a special and friendlier compartment especially in public transports to aid in waste management.

The most cause of filth on our roads is the activities of street selling. If this is effectively checked and stopped it shall greatly help instead of using the usual “sack them now: allow them during election periods approaches”.

In all, I think policies of at least “one district, one recycling plant or company”, planting of more ornamental or friendly tress along our streets or roads coupled with some education and strict enforcement of laws shall help address these issues. Environmental courts can also be setup to prosecute offenders and proper upbringing and training of children in homes and in schools (curricula on sanitation). Churches must be involved in spreading the message to indeed make “Ghana and Africa next to Godliness”. Yes, Ghanaians and Africans must change our attitude but without laws and its effective enforcement, people will never change, thus why Christ, Prophet, etc. gave laws to govern human beings on earth with its effects.

God bless our homeland Ghana, Africa, and us all.


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