In Margibi County…Students Alarm Over Poor Hygienic Conditions at Government Schools

By Sally Denia Tulorgbo, 0770281023, FeJAL Mentorship Fellow

Kakata, Margibi County –Students at Lango Lappaye High School in Kakata, Margibi County have alarmed over the poor state of school bathrooms, and other areas and they are calling for immediate intervention from humanitarian organizations, non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), and the Government of Liberia.

Lovetee Noah, a 12th-grade student and the health minister at the school said the bathroom condition is currently causing health problems for students, especially females. She noted that both boys and girls are sharing bathrooms; something she said is leading to severe infection and other health issues among female students.

She said despite the growing number of students in the school, its sanitary condition is poor thus making it difficult for students especially females to use the bathrooms due to its unhealthy condition.

Ms Noah said what is more disgusting is that female students have to wait for the male students before accessing the bathroom even when they are messing.

She noted that students pay extra fees for activities during registration and was concerned about how the monies were being used when the administration could not provide basic hygienic materials for the schools.

“Imagine when a female student is messing and wants to use the bathroom to change her pad, she will have to wait for a longer period because a male student is using the bathroom, as a Health Minister of the School and female particularly, I have suffered infections and other health issues on several occasions due to the unhygienic bathroom conditions, on several occasions we have engaged the administration about the poor state of the bathrooms, but it seems there is no concern for the students,” Nuoah said.

Princess Tokpah, another student, echoed Nuoah’s concerns, emphasizing the risk of infections and the lack of access to sanitary pads. “Sanitary pads are not easily accessible on the school campus, it’s even more embarrassing when our period comes unexpectedly”.

According to student Tokpah, the lack of conducive bathrooms has become a major problem not just at Lango Lappaye High School but also at other Government school campuses which is disgraceful on the part of the Government considering the Government’s quest for promoting girls’ education in the Country.

Student Tokpah believed quality education is a composition of a better environment, the provision of textbooks, as well as the availability of clean and healthy sanitary facilities.

“You cannot run an effective high school if all these things are not put in place, especially at the time when education is a key pillar in the government’s ARREST Agenda for the Country.

Also speaking, a male student Jerry Farloh Jr. said his female colleagues are not the only ones affected by the poor sanitary condition at the school. Student Farloh said he has always and will continue to avoid using the school’s bathrooms until it is improved. “On many occasions, I too have suffered from infectious diseases just by using the bathrooms on Campus, as a result of this, I have decided not to use the facility anymore until it is renovated”.

He added, “We sometimes get frustrated when we hear that the Legislature has allotted several million dollars in the National budget for education, but simple things like a clean bathroom are not available on government school campuses”.

Responding to the student’s concerns, Philip Mulbah, the Vice Principal for administration at Lango Lappaye High School, acknowledged the challenges. Mr. Mulbah explained that while the administration strives to maintain cleanliness, they rely on a volunteer janitor to ensure the bathrooms are clean due to budget constraints.

“We are aware of some of these things but because of the lack of sufficient funds, we are unable to implement some of our plans, it is difficult to tell the students all of our constraints because we are in administration, but the challenges here are enormous, although this is a government school, the government alone cannot provide everything and that is why we use most of our programs on campus to call on well-meaning Liberia especially people of goodwill to come to the aid of the administration in helping us meet some of our challenges”, Lango Lappaye Vice Principal noted.

Though Mr. Mulbah did not say what the administration of the school does with the extra fees collected from students during registration, however, he noted that the school looks forward to local, National, and International non-governmental Organizations getting involved, “because the running of schools should be a collective responsibility of both the public and private sectors”.

Lango Lappaye High School is not the only Government school facing such a problem. Students of the EJY Government High School also in Kakata expressed similar concerns, describing the situation as unbearable noting it is unhealthy to have a school without a decent bathroom.

“For us, it is complex because both the bathrooms and our Campus have serious sanitary problems” most of the students emphasized.

James Briggs, a 9th-grade student said, “I am sitting here and wondering whether the Ministry of Education through the County and District Educations Officers do regular inspection of the various schools especially Government ones to ascertain the sanitary and academic conditions of these schools because that a cardinal responsibility for them”.

The students said, although sometimes Organizations like Help Mother, and Help a Newborn have been providing essential sanitation and school materials since 2020, the government must take responsibility for its schools because it is the obligation of the Government of Liberia.

“Look the truth is, we can have Community people, organizations, and Institutions helping to keep our Campus clean which is appreciated but the greatest responsibility is on the shoulders of the government because it is a statutory obligation as provided for by law, so there should be absolutely no excuse” some of the students noted.

The students are calling on the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Education to take the lead in providing a better learning environment for all schools to attract support from Community Institutions and non-governmental Organizations. They believe the government’s free and compulsory education policy may not achieve its actual objective if the requisite environment is not created for kids to learn.

The students also think creating a better and safer learning environment will in a unique way attract more students from private to government schools across the Country.

At least Liberia is now making progress in terms of government’s support to the education sector which is in the tune of USD 27.7 million constituting 16% of the national budget unlike 2023 when it was 12%.

Several Civil Society Organizations working in education have been advocating for increment in the allotment for education to at least 20% in the national envelope.

This content was produced by the Female Journalists Association of Liberia (FeJAL) Mentorship Fellow, through the support of Internews USAID Year III Media Activity Reporting Program

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