Cholera in the college: Students blame govt for refusing to repair faulty borehole

Affected students being attended to by a health official

MUHAMMAD SABIU reports on the cholera outbreak at a government school, which claimed one life with several others hospitalised, tracing the cause of the epidemic and the resulting death.


IT may not share the same disparaging themes as the novel of Professor Femi Osofisan, entitled Kolera Kolej espouses, but the unsavoury events in a popular secondary school in Kaduna State would suggest the decay in governance and the poor attitude those in the positions of authority pay to issues relating to education and children.

Government Girls Secondary School, Kawo, Kaduna, as the name suggests, is a school run by government, specifically the Kaduna State government and there are hundreds of them across the state. With about 2,000 students enrolled, it suddenly became the centre of attraction for the wrong reason last weekend, when scores of students suddenly fell ill and were later discovered to have contracted cholera.

In a short while, parents, health workers and government officials stormed the school to help. Within a short time about 63 of the girls were identified as victims of the outbreak and conveyed to General Hospital, Kawo, Kaduna. One did not survive as she died later at a private hospital.

The state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Alhaji Ja’afaru Sani, who quickly reacted to the cholera outbreak, confirmed that one of the students lost her life. According to him, the parent of the student on receiving the news that their child was affected came and took her to a private hospital where she eventually died. He added that when the outbreak of the disease was first reported, 55 students were hospitalised at the General Hospital.

Sani revealed that so far his ministry is working hard in partnership with other stakeholders to curtail the situation even as he said many of the students had been discharged.

Also, findings revealed that officials of Red Cross as well as other emergency organisations have been in college since the disease was first noticed offering professional services to the students

A student fetching water from the infected well

Tracing the cause of the outbreak, Sunday Tribune learnt that the school with that significant population of students did not have enough water for the use of the students and even officials. The school, it was said, had only one source for all its water usage: a well, apart from deficiencies in other facilities.

A source who pleaded for anonymity, confirmed Sunday Tribune’s finding on the cause of the disease outbreak. According to him:

“This is a college with over 2,000 students and there is no (enough) water,” the source said, adding that the only source of water in the school is a well. “How do you expect a well to take care of this number of students?” he queried.

However, a student who pleaded for anonymity, upon inquiry on the inability of the school authority or government to sink a motorised borehole,  explained that there was indeed a borehole. But it had stopped functioning for a long time.

“Every time (the issue came up) we were told that it would be repaired, but it was never done,” she told Sunday Tribune.

But Alhaji Sani, the state education commissioner, had a contrary view. He attributed the water crisis to power failure which made it difficult for the students to use the motorised borehole provided in the school.

“The borehole uses power to function and the incessant power failure forced the students to use the alternative well in the college,” he declared.

But a parent, who identified himself as Ibrahim Musa, disputed the claim of the education commissioner. He confirmed that the well was the only source of water for the students and that unfortunately it had been contaminated with faeces, because the overhead tank in the school was not working thereby making it difficult for the students to use the toilet facility in the school.

“My daughter was affected. The school hygiene was too poor. There are excreta around the well where these children are getting water from,” he revealed.

The girls being conveyed to hospital

A Deputy Director at the Disease Control Centre, Ibrahim Suleiman, who was at the scene when the outbreak was first reported, said the water source was, no doubt, responsible for the incident.  “We have 39 cases on admission due to diarrhoea and vomiting. We are yet to confirm the real cause, but there had been a lot of contamination around the water source the students are using which may be a serious contributory factor,” Suleiman explained, stating that it was not just 39 students that were affected.

“Apart from these 39 students on admission, we are also investigating another 89 cases apart from diarrhoea and vomiting.”

Upon enquiry, the students who were admitted in the hospital were said to be responding well to treatment. As of the time of filing this report, the state Commissioner for Health and Human Services ,Dr Paul Manya Dogo, said more than 60 students had so far been discharged. According to him, only six students are still on admission.

“I am just leaving the hospital where the children were taken to. The situation had been brought under control and a lot of them already discharged. Sixty-three of them were admitted at the facility, but only six of them are remaining and the hospital management has assured us that they too may be discharged today (Thursday).

“Sadly, one of them died at a private hospital where her parents had taken her to. That I think happened on (penultimate) Friday and it pained us,” he said.

Corroborating what the commissioner earlier said, Chief Medical Director, General Hospital Kawo, Kaduna, Dr Oyelami Akintunde said, the students were responding to treatment and several of them had been discharged.

According to him, “they brought 42 on Monday morning and another 15 that same Monday night. They also brought six on Tuesday morning, totalling 63. Many of them had recovered and were discharged and even the remaining six will be discharged today (Thursday).”

One of the survivors (names withheld) while speaking with Sunday Tribune appealed to the state government to come to the students’ rescue as facilities in the school are nothing to write home about.

“We have toilets, but no water. Our tanks are not working; so people defecate anywhere and everywhere. The wells we are using too are not healthy but we don’t have any option for now.

“We don’t also have a dining hall where we could eat our meals. They serve us food while we sit and eat on bare floor. The government needs to help us to avoid a repeat,” she pleaded.

However, though this particular situation had been brought under control, preventing a similar situation in the nearest future is what the state government should assiduously work at because there are many of such schools, not only in Kaduna State but all over the country, which lack the very basic facilities befitting of a standard school where education is imparted to the future generation.

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