The Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) calls on the Government to close the access gap in the provision of drinking water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities and services in schools. This involves the provision and upgrading of WASH facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and learning environments for all in compliance with SDG 4a.
Existing evidence suggests that majority of school compounds and school WASH facilities in Ghana, especially toilets, do not meet the required minimum standards. Almost three out of every five public schools in Ghana (58%) do not even yet have access to drinking water supply facilities while 30% do not have toilet facilities. This translates to over 2.5 million school-going children at risk of preventable WASH-related diseases.
What is even more alarming, is that between 2013 and 2018, access to toilet facilities in schools improved by only one percent. This implies that if the trend should continue with one percent every five years, it will take Ghana 150 years to close the access gap of 30% for sanitation in schools alone. Meanwhile the SDGs require countries to provide safe sanitation for all within the next eleven years. Access to drinking water presents a more worrying situation as there was a 2% increase in the access gap of drinking water facilities in public basic schools from 56% in 2013 to 58% in 2018.
Even for the existing toilet facilities, several of them do not have separate changing rooms for girls, forcing menstruating girls for instance, to stay away from school during their periods. Thousands of school toilet and water facilities are also not disability-sensitive, further complicating school life for pupils with disabilities. This situation raises doubts about the sincerity in the national rollout of the Minimum Standards for WASH in Schools developed by the Ghana Education Service (GES) in 2014. If these minimum standards were followed and applied to every school, it would not require any miracle to meet the SDGs.
The question, however, is how much have these standards been rolled out or adhered to even in new school blocks?
CONIWAS therefore calls on the government of Ghana to, as a matter of urgency:
1. Close the WASH in Schools access gaps of 30% for sanitation and 51% for water,
2. Adhere to the minimum standards for WASH in Schools developed by the GES, and
3. Include a Budget for Operation and Maintenance for WASH in Schools to ensure that facilities provided are always operational and adequately maintained.