By Zariat Yetunde Ayoade

“I gained admission to Usmanu Danfodiyo University (UDUS) in December 2019 and had to move from the South to North. Adapting to life in a new environment was not easy but it is a price I have to pay for success.”

These were the words of Damilola Faith, a 300-level student at the Faculty of Arts.

When she got admission into UDUS, she weighed her possible accommodation alternatives and settled for the school’s halls of residence because she learnt of its relative affordability and proximity to classes. However, she paid her dues, suffering discomfort from having to use the toilets there.

In Damilola’s words, “The dirty toilets are not the fault of the management or the cleaners. It is the fault of the students”.

Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto, like other institutions, provides accommodation to select students on a per-session basis at an affordable rate. Most rooms in the female halls of residence accommodate between 8 and 16, and, sometimes, more students. 

Like other schools’ halls of residence, the management employs cleaners to keep the hostels and the environs clean. Despite the services of cleaners, students still battle with dirty toilets and an unhealthy environment.

In the UDUS female halls of residence, which are in blocks, a storey block like the Nana Asmau hostel, has 3 bathrooms and 2 toilets per floor. On a floor with 6 rooms and an average 7 occupants per room. About 42 students compete for the available convenience.

“I don’t know if it is dirtiness or that they don’t see anything bad in it. We just have to cope with one other.” Damilola lamented, unable to fathom why some students misuse the convenience, filling the atmosphere with offensive smells.


A Threat to Residents’ Wellbeing

“I came to this school [UDUS] without any prior sicknesses. I was hale and hearty. But living in the hostel in my year one affected my health greatly,” Azeezah Yunus*, a 300-level student at UDUS, lamented.

“I once had an asthmatic attack in the toilet due to the odour. Thanks to my friend that came in on time [to rush me to the school clinic]. My health became worse after living in the hostel. School toilets would have been better if students imbibe basic hygiene,” she continued.

Living in the school halls of residence as a fresher was not easy for Azeezah. She recalled that she contracted infection from the toilets frequently and had a frail health.

Doctors say that dirty toilets give infection to women or compel them to hold the urge until they find suitable alternatives. The latter is also harmful as it can cause medical problems for them.

According to Dr Shilpi Srivastava, an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Development Studies, who is passionate about off-grid sanitation in the global South, people will mind paying to use clean toilets. 

“The only requirement is to keep them clean so that they do not spread infection among users, particularly women, who are vulnerable to infection,” she linked unclean toilets with ill health, which explains Azeezah’s experience.

“It was unbearable for me. I ended up in the hospital most times. Sometimes, at the school clinic or UDUTH, the doctors kept saying it is because of the environment. The Sokoto environment is alien to a lot of people, like me, and the least students can do to help one another is to ensure a clean environment, including toilets,” Azeezah recounted her harrowing experience.

“I didn’t have it easy in UG1. I missed out on tests and assignments. Alhamdulilah for the company of good friends, I managed to scale through”.

“I moved [to another apartment at] First gate in my second year and I am doing fine now,” Azeezah concluded with glee.


A Plea for More Toilets 

“I have lived in three different hostels since I gained admission to UDUS and I can say the number of toilets is too small for the number of students using them,” Fatima Abubakar*, a 400-level student from the Faculty of Social Science, observed.

She added that maintaining the toilets is difficult “due to the overpopulation in the hostel and some students’ dirty habits”.

“Coming from different homes and backgrounds implies that we have different exposure. Some students are still using pit latrines in their houses and are not used to water closets, but because we are in the institution, everybody wants to belong. They start misbehaving and inconveniencing others. Some will use pads and instead of disposing of it properly, they will just throw it anyhow in the bathroom,” she lamented.

Kawthar Bukola Yusuf is a final year student at the Department of Public Administration, who has inhabited the halls of residence since her 100-level days.

According to her, “I feel we only need to appeal to the management to build us more toilets. Also, we sometimes have drainage issues, because there are some toilets, where water doesn’t flow very well. They have fixed it several times, but it keeps recurring”.

“The management has done its part [by providing toilets and cleaners] though the toilets are not enough, but the students should do better. I use the hostel toilets and always flush,” she continued.

“Most students are even used to ‘shotput’ because they won’t have to deal with infection. Only if there is an opportunity to build more toilets and tell the cleaners to wash properly. Also if they can lay a strict penalty for anyone misusing the toilet, maybe we will have a healthy environment,” Kawthar concluded.

“My experience with the toilets is not a very good one, because I treated infection almost on a weekly basis, and sometimes, it hinders my menstrual period. I have never had any infection untill I gained admission to this school and started leaving in the hostel.”

These are the words of Ruqqayah Muhammed, a 300-level students of mathematics who is also a victim of hostel toilets menance.

She believes the toilets is too small for number of students. However, if the students are using the toilets well, there won’t be any problem, and everyone will be safe.

“The problem is within us the female students, and I don’t think the management can interfere much in the matter because we are the one using it and they don’t know anything about it. The only thing the management can do is set up a strict disciplinary committee within the hostel premises who would always ensure to catch the culprit especially those that dispose their used pads on the floor and the door handles,” Ruqqayah opined.


“Students Are Not Predictable” Hostel Matron

While Speaking with the halls of residence matron, who chose not to be mentioned, she bemoaned how bad the students are using the toilets. She said, “You will see students that dress well and fine, but the way most of them use the toilet is so bad and it doesn’t make any sense because what they are doing to themselves is also bad. You can never predict them.”

The hostel matrons are in charge of overseeing the affairs in the hostel, ensuring peace and orderliness in the hostel.

“I always provide cleaning materials for the cleaners, such as soap, scrub and izal among others, but despite all my efforts and the cleaners efforts, the students always find a way to misuse the toilet,” she complained.

The matron explained how she always make sure the hostel is clean and any students she caught misusing it will be punished. 

“I remember how I sent the cleaners to clean the back of the toilets and one of them came back vomiting due to how dirty the students used it. I made sure to monitor the toilet that day and I seized buckets and some were made to wash the toilet that day after using it,” she said.

The matron emphasized on how she always plead with the students to avoid having issues with the management because most of what they are doing in the hostel, they can’t do it at homes and the management must not hear about it because the school frown against such irregularities.

“We pray the students can have human feelings and be moderate in everything they do,” she concluded.


Cleaners Stage Defence

One of the cleaners that work in the hostel, Mrs. Asmau Abubakar narrated how she used to struggle to clean the toilets everyday, but after some minutes the hostel becomes dirty again.

“I was washing the toilets one day, after I finished washing the first one, a lady entered and stool on the floor, she still came out to greet me that well done Ina, I didn’t quickly know she has stool on the floor, it was when I finished washing the second one that I saw it. I was so irritated that day but there is nothing I can do,” she said. 

Mrs. Asmau added that, “We are doing this work because we don’t have any other way to make money. We can’t get another work, but we risk our lives packing all the diets, stool and used pads from the toilets. Sometimes we got scared of not catching diseases from everything we are doing, we can only appeal to the students to be considerate and do better.”


Students’ Union Weighs in

“The problem is from us and the solution is also within us, the management are not living with us yet they have tried their best by providing us the cleaners and chemicals that they use to disinfect the toilets.” S.U Vice Chairman reacts.

Fatimah Abdulaziz Abdullah is a 500level at the Faculty of Agriculture, who is also the Vice Chairman of the Caretaker Committe, and a representative of the student Union who also lives in the hostel.

“Person hygiene is very important as a student, a lot of student do what they can’t do in their house in the hostel, imagine someone disposing pads in the bathroom, or using the toilets without flushing, they can’t do this in their house,” she stated further.

She added that “Student needs to work on what we can do to help ourselves, all of us are victims of this menace.” 

Fatimah opined that it is not about the school management to ensure students use the toilet clean rather the students should ensure a safe toilets themselves. 

“It is not possible for the management to come and stand in the toilet and start checking who poo in the bathroom, or who dispose pads in the bathroom, the cleaners are trying their best but the student still manage to have their way in making the toilet dirty,” she concluded.


Student Affairs Division

In an interview with the university’s Dean of Student Affairs, Prof Umar Aliyu, he asserted that the management is aware of the situation and has resorted to making any students found misusing the toilets undo their unhygienic actions.

“In some halls of residence now, once your block is found wanting of dirtying the toilets, all occupants of the block will take turns in washing it,” he explained. 

According to him, the management has provided the students with everything they need, including cleaners and cleaning materials. He, however, expressed dismay that, despite all of this, the students expose themselves to different hazards by stooling and disposing pads indiscriminately.

“I believe if they serve the punishment of washing the toilets themselves, they will know it is not easy to clean the toilets. The solution has been effective in some of the halls of residence and it will continue to stand,” he concluded.

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