Factors influencing poor hygiene among secondary students

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Factors influencing poor hygiene among secondary School students in Nigeria

According to Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation and the Ministry of Education (2009), hygiene is the practice of keeping oneself and ones surroundings clean so as to prevent illness or the spread of preventable diseases. The practice may include hand washing with soap, proper use of sanitation facilities, proper disposal human waste and menstrual hygiene management.

Since its inception in 2008, The Global Hand Washing Day has been reinforcing the call for improved hygiene practices worldwide (UNICEF and WHO, 2008). Its key vision is the implementation of a local and global culture of hand washing with soap as a major strategy in reducing diarrhea infections by 30-50% (Cairncross and Valdmanis, 2006). However, studies have shown that globally, the rate at which hands are washed with soap ranges from 0-34% (Parker, 1993).This is a very insignificant number compared to the total world population.

According to Crofts and Fisher (2011), menstrual hygiene management has been an issue for almost half of the world’s adolescent girls. It has been a cause of shame, stigma, and school absenteeism and contributes greatly to reproductive tract infections. Addressing these hygiene practices particularly in public schools can bring the much needed international attention to focus on these neglected issues. Schools, particularly those in rural areas often have inadequate water, toilets, hand washing soap and hand washing facilities making it difficult for some students to practice proper hygiene. Boys and girls are likely to be affected in different ways by this inadequacy and this may contribute to unequal learning opportunities. Sometimes girls fail to practice proper hygiene as was observed by Parker (1993) in a study carried out in  Libode district in Zimbabwe where some girls reported dropping used sanitary towels in the pit latrines or throwing them in the nearby bushes since their sanitary towel disposal bins were always full and dirty. A study carried by Parker (1993) in West Bengal showed that girls missed school during menstruation since they could not use the sanitary towel disposal bins which were dirty and smelly. These practices interfere with the achievement of one of the Millennium Development Goals on ensuring environmental sustainability since this disposal of used sanitary towels is not ecologically friendly. Another Millennium Development Goal on the promotion of gender equality will also not be achieved since girls, unlike boys, miss school during menstruation period.

In most public schools, latrine to student ratio is a core concern with hundreds of students sharing a single toilet thus affording inadequate privacy especially for the girls. This is in contrast to recommendation by The Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation and Ministry of Education (2009) which recommend a ratio of 1 toilet for every 25 girls and 1 toilet for every 30 boys in order for the sanitation facilities to provide adequate privacy to all students. A study conducted in Machakos showed that an average of 64 students was sharing one toilet (WHO, 2009). Another study carried out by Curtis and Cairncross (2003) showed that in most public schools, toilets were divided into cubicles with no doors and had an open roof. Most of the toilets were dirty with feces on the walls and urine on the floor. Such conditions do not favor proper hygiene practices. There is therefore need to build separate gender-appropriate toilets that provide privacy, adequate hand washing water, soap and disposal facilities for the entire school community. In addition, proper hygiene practices should be instigated in public schools since sanitary conditions and basic personal hygiene practices such as hand washing using soap, proper

disposal of used sanitary towels and proper use of toilets are still not widely practiced among students. Schools should provide an enabling environment where the students can learn these practices and implement them both in school and even at home.

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