Hopley schools are the epitome of poor sanitation and hygiene particularly in respect of poor water sources and sanitation. The evident fact is that most schools dug wells and sometimes have boreholes dug by development partners. Furthermore, Blair toilets are the most common feature in the local community schools.
According to the Unicef publication on water, sanitation, and hygiene -growing up in a clean and safe environment is every child’s right. Access to clean water, basic, toilets, and good hygiene practices not only keeps children thriving but also gives them a healthier start in life
The above explanation from the Unicef publication is a direct opposite of what schools in the Hopley settlement are experiencing in terms of water and sanitation as they are a true mirror of underdevelopment –mainly on water and sanitation facilities. They are truly a result of a lack of accountability and transparency -in respect of their management to ensure improvement in water, sanitation, and hygiene to enhance the wellbeing of learners. Poor planning of Hopley came in place when it was invaded in 1998 by squatters who complained of lack of accommodation. The influx of people meant the place would need facilities such as schools, clinics, shopping centers, churches, among other recreational facilities.
A common feature is that Blair toilets are predominantly used in Hopley as most schools are not connected to water. This results in substandard in respect of sanitation facilities at schools, particularly as Blair toilets pollute the environment. The other challenge is that Hopley schools lack chemicals that can cause decomposition. Blair toilets also generate flies that can fly to school classrooms, thus posing serious health hazards like Cholera and Typhoid. These Blair toilets produce foul smells as treatment chemicals to diffuse the smell and discompose human waste are not available in schools.
The other common feature is the usage of wells by Hopley schools. This possesses a serious danger to schoolchildren as wells are unsafe taking cognizance that the environment is polluted as most of them are using Blair toilets. Borehole digging for schools in Hopley endangers the sewage disposal in the area as they are randomly dug. This affects the local water bodies like Manyame -due to underground water flow in the process contaminating the water.
Lack of proper facilities to ensure efficient sanitation has a bearing on the education and growth of youth because apart from knowledge, a student learns of discipline, honesty, and cleanliness from school, and therefore, it is important for a school to maintain a hygienic atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the conditions pupils are subjected to, teach them bad hygiene standards as schools have no proper facilities to inculcate values of hygiene and cleanliness to the youths, particularly school children.
Lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene is a worrying factor globally. According to the National Library for Medicine, it is stipulated that:
“Although the world has progressed in the area of water and sanitation, more than 2.3 billion people still live without access to sanitation facilities and some are unable to practice basic hygiene.
Schools did provide a hygiene-enabling environment as there were no learning materials, policies, and resources on hygiene and health. The challenges lay in the provision of hygiene enabling facilities, particularly the lack of access to sanitation for the maturing girl child and a school curriculum that provides positive reinforcement and practical life skills training approach.’’
The above resonates with the lack of proper water and sanitation facilities in Hopley schools, covering both public and private schools. This brings to the fore the problems of monitoring and supervision, particularly by the central government authorities to ensure proper sanitation facilities in Schools. Everything is left largely to land barons that are mainly establishing private schools without proper sanitation measures, thus subjecting school children to unbearable health conditions.
Lack of regularization of settlements like Hopley, Epworth, and Stonebridge, are some of the key drivers of unhygienic conditions Hopley schools are currently experiencing. The most noticeable problems being that of clean and potable water, necessary for good ablution services.
Hopley schools problems of lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene are also compounded by the COVID-19 Pandemic that demands that pupils wash hands more often than not. But this seems not the case in Hopley schools each time their schools are opened when the COVID 19 restrictions are lifted. Schools lack running water and sanitation facilities like –sewerage pipelines to transport human waste to designated areas.
According to the Unicef publication on water, sanitation, and hygiene despite the COVID -19 pandemic challenges -putting the spotlight on the importance of hand hygiene to prevent the spread of disease, three billion people worldwide including hundreds of millions of school-going children, do not have access to handwashing facilities with soap. People living in rural areas, urban slums, disaster-prone areas, and low–income countries are the most vulnerable and the most affected.
Supporting the Unicef observations is the Community Water Alliance which asserts that many Blair toilets in the ward are built a few meters from the shallow wells. Mr. Hardlife Mudzigwa, Community Water Alliance director said their organization is imploring the Government of Zimbabwe and the City of Harare to consider fulfilling the human right to water for residents in informal settlements like Hopley.
“We also appeal to international Non-Governmental Organizations to place marginalized communities like Hopley at the core of their planning, said Mudzingwa.”
Hopley has more than 70.000 residents and started as an informal settlement in Harare.