Kenyan woman makes toilet cleaning her business
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Kenyan woman makes toilet cleaning her business

Posted MUCHEMI WACHIRA

on  Tuesday, August 26   2014 at  14:12

She had taken her daughter to a new school when she felt offended by the stench emanating from the institution’s lavatories.

Lillian King, a Kenyan businesswoman who works in Nakuru town had a similar encounter during last year’s general elections when she was forced to use a toilet at the polling station, which is a public school in the outskirts of Nakuru.

And it was after queuing for hours as she waited to cast her vote.

“The toilets were so filthy but what was more shocking was the presence of maggots that turned out to be nuisance as I had open shoes,” she recalls.

It was a few months later when her daughter reported to the town's Crater Primary School in Nakuru’s Section 58 estate, which is one of the most populated institutions.

And given her previous experience, she decided that something had to be done.

Why? “I could not see a water tap around. And I could only see children enter the messy toilets and on coming out, they would go without washing their hands.”

Together with the school administration, Ms King has come to develop a new initiative aimed at ensuring toilets public school toilets are clean and that children also wash their hands every time they use the lavatories or urinals.

This has elicited interest of both the public health department and Nakuru County Government.

The two have now declared that they would partner with Ms King in her pilot project at Crater Primary School to extend the same to other public institutions especially in Nakuru Town area.

And as the Nakuru Central public health officer, Joseph Kimani , confirms, scarcity of water is a problem in schools within his area of his jurisdiction. Generally, water is a problem in Nakuru, which mainly relies on boreholes and dams for its water supply.

Like in Crater Primary School, most of the schools within the town cannot afford to pay their water bills. And the problem is parents who public health officials say always insist that it is the responsibility of the government to meet such costs.

The toilets at Crater Primary School were in such a mess because the water supply had been disconnected by Nakuru Water and Sewerage Company.

“We had accumulated a bill of $6500 and each parents was to pay $4 to clear it but they refused to contribute,” the school headteacher Janet Okuto clarifies.

The parents haven’t changed their minds yet even after attempts Ms King, jointly with the teachers to sensitize them on dangers their children are exposed to.

Public health officials say they will try to involve officials from Ministry of Education in sensitising parents in public schools to support toilet project.

At Crater Primary School, Ms Okuto says parents are required to contribute less than $4 every month to buy water and detergents required to make the toilets to create a hygienic environment for their children.

Human consumption

It is Ms King who has been spending her money to buy these requirements although they are now able to harvest water from the roofs of their classes.

A container of water with a tap has been placed outside the toilets from where the children wash their hands after using the lavatories.

The already used water is recycled to clean the toilets. There is a lady employed to do the cleaning job, which she does frequently.

“We first held several sessions with the children sensitising them on importance of washing their hands after using a toilet and they have now internalized it,” Ms Okuto explains.

After visiting the school before the children closed for their first term holiday last week, Public health officials were impressed.

“The stench, which could be sensed while entering the gates in no longer there,” asserts, Mr Kimani who says they have to extend the project to other schools in Nakuru Central.

“We don’t have money right now to assist in the project but it appears very impressing. In future, we shall partner with her (Ms King),” Nakuru county executive member in charge of youth affairs Catherine Kitetu said.

The worry Public Health department is expressing – is where to get enough water for cleaning the toilets as most of the schools have had their water supply disconnected.

“The only option left for these schools is to harvest water, unfortunately the roofs of most of the buildings are not from iron sheets but asbestos or bricks and water harvested from such rooftops is not fit for human consumption,” Mr Kimani points out.

Most of these schools have no adequate water to clean their flash toilets or even for the children to wash their heads after answering a call of nature.

This scantiness of water has bred diseases such as diarrhoea and dysentery, which according to the public health have remained a problem.

“If a child fails to wash hands after using a toilet, it is likely to result to contamination and this is how cases of diarrhoea and dysentery occur,” Mr Kimani adding that in a period of two months, at least an average of 1,1095 cases of diarrhoea among children below five-years are reported in public health facilities in Nakuru Central.

Twitter: @wachiramuchemi