The Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) has presented a petition against the government for the lack of safe drinking water and improved toilet facilities (with changing rooms) in public and private basic schools.
The petition presented to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) was to enable the Commission to investigate and establish the number of public and private basic schools without access to safe drinking water, toilet facilities and urinals.
It was also for CHRAJ to widen its scope to include Senior High Schools and tertiary institutions as it may deem fit.
Mr Yaw Attah Arhin, the Chairman of CONIWAS, presenting the petition to the Registrar of the Commission, said the Coalition, under its Rights to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene services Advocacy Project conducted a desk study into the Education Management Information System (EMIS).
The petition is against the government through the Ministry of Education (MOE), Ghana Education Service (GES), National Schools Inspectorate Authority, Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and any relevant agency.
He said the information system compiled data on all public and private basic schools with and without safe drinking water, improved toilet facilities and urinals.
He said in private basic schools, where the situation was a little better, 17 percent (1,966) lack access to safe drinking water; 11 percent (1,273) do not have access to toilet facilities, while 16 percent (1,840) have no urinals.
The Chairman said their study of the EMIS 2020 revealed that 25 percent (5,471) of public basic schools lack access to safe drinking water; 26 percent (5,725) do to have toilet facilities, while 31 percent (6,843) lack access to urinals.
He said the research revealed that the lack of access to these basic school infrastructure promotes absenteeism, truancy, loss of teaching and learning time, and generally poor academic performance.
Mr. Arhin said sadly, even some public basic school infrastructure, which were recently constructed were without safe drinking water, toilet facilities and urinals.
”Indeed, nine out of 10 girls in Ghana regularly miss school during menstrual periods,” he added.
He said this was because such girls who reached the age of puberty did not find the school environment safe or conducive.
“It is our considered opinion and belief as a coalition that this is at the core of the right to education and dignity,” he added.
He said the lack of access to these basic facilities, therefore, violated the fundamental human right to education and dignity of the thousands of children who are affected by this unfortunate situation.
He said it was their firm contention that the government, acting through MOE, GES, Inspectorate Authority and any other relevant body, were violating their rights to health and life.
He said when children were in school and had no water to drink, no toilets to empty their bowels and no water to wash their hands, their health and wellbeing were obviously compromised, and their life is equally threatened.
Mr Arhin said this was against Article 13(1) of the 1992 constitution, which reads “no person shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in the exercise of the execution of a sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Ghana of which he has been convicted”.
The Chairman said as a national human rights institution, CHRAJ should take all legally necessary steps to ensure the appropriate State agencies including MOE, GES, NASIA and MMDAs collaborate to provide safe drinking water, improved toilet facilities and urinals in all public and private basic schools within acceptable timelines.
He called on the Commission to make a declaration that no new public or private basic school infrastructure may be constructed without access to safe drinking water, improved toilet facilities and urinals.
He said to make the school environment conducive for girls, who have reached the age of puberty, and to ensure that menstruating girls did not miss school, all school toilet facilities should have changing rooms for girls.