By Jet Stanley Madu
Placing primary education on a sound footing through adequate funding was the focal point of a recent education stakeholders’ meeting, organised in Lagos, by Save the Children, a non-governmental organisation (NGO). Other salient issues such as teaching pupils healthy etiquettes and safeguarding school facilities also featured at the event.
Many of the participants maintained that the running cost made available to Heads of Primary Education is very meagre. They therefore, called on government and its agencies to increase the running cost for primary education.
One of the objectives of the NGO’s “School Health and Nutrition (SHN) End Project story meeting with stakeholders, held at the City Mall, Lagos Island, was to evaluate and share successes of its intervention projects executed in 10 pilot government schools in Lagos Island.
At the programme, it was also revealed that lack of, or poor state of toilet facility in school, causes some female students to lag behind in their studies during their monthly period. Explaining how this works, Amaka Ifionu, the School Health and Nutrition Adviser for the Health and Hygiene Project of Save the Children, remarked: “We have young girls that are in primary school who already have started menstruating. If they have in school toilet facilities that are under lock and key because they have not been functional for years and those of them that are open are too dirty for anyone to step into, they can’t use the school facility, when they’re in their period. They would rather choose to stay at home.
“Now, imagine that a girl has an average period cycle of five days every month, and so for five days every month she misses school. On average, there are 13 weeks in a school term, so she misses school for three weeks every term. You can imagine how behind that girl will be.”
Giving an overview of the projects, she added that it was the need to provide healthy and functional conveniences and other health and learning facilities that informed the organisation’s decision to improve the general school environment in Lagos State. The initiative, which started in Nigeria in 2014, was in continuation of the Lagos State School Health Programme, with funds support from Procter and Gamble, she said.
Ifionu described school as a hub where children from all parts of the state congregate. Therefore, when they are informed and educated, they take the message to the entire society.
At the close of the event, teachers and pupils were urged to ensure that the facilities and materials provided are well maintained to avoid deterioration while Head Teachers were charged to ensure they inculcate healthy behaviour into their pupils. The children were further encouraged to pass on the information they learnt to their peers and society at large.
Various speakers stressed the need for government to provide more funds for the maintenance of broken down facilities in the schools. The Ministry of Education was further urged to train and retrain health teachers and equip school libraries with contemporary health textbooks.
Those who attended the stakeholders’ meeting include Mrs. Oteju Bunmi (from SUBEB), Mrs. Shoga Abimbola, who represented the Chairman, Lagos State Primary Health Board, Mr. Abiyomi Samuel, who represented Executive Secretary of LILG and Mrs. Oluwakemi Adedeji, the Director, Development Partners Department, Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget.
Speaking to the parents of the young girls, Oteju urged them to give their wards education from home. “There are so many things we don’t have time to teach at school,” she said. “But, by the time we educate them from home, by the time we let them realize from home that pads should not be thrown into the toilets, they will imbibe the lesson and take it to school.”
In her remarks, the Corporate Communications Executive, Procter and Gamble (P&G), Mrs. Omolola Adenuga, stressed the need for collaboration between pupils, teachers, government and organisations to improve school health and nutrition and move education forward.
Mrs. Jane Lounge from the Save the Children, US Office, added that children deserve to be well catered for, to be kept healthy and educated, noting that, “any investment in them now is the only way to possibly affect the future of Nigeria and the rest of the world.”