World shalanga day

I see this picture every time I walk through my hallway, it was taken at a beach a few years ago. Today, I took a closer look as if I was looking at it for the first time then it occurred to me that the problem of open defecation goes beyond the surface – to effectively deal with it, mindset has to change.

peeing in the seaHow can one explain a grown man peeing in the open with total disregard to people around him? I have seeing a grown man defecating same way at a Lagos beach with little left for imagination and a few minutes later brought some gigantic prawns for sale – all I could imagine was fresh poop in the guts of those prawns – I prefer not to have preconceived image of what might be so I declined.

Additionally, how can one explain a school with 600 pupils having 2 pit toilets to share between them? One can not be too quick to blame children defecating in the open as most likely teachers do the same thing. Teachers in such a school are comfortable with the state of toilet because that is definitely not the priority for the school otherwise they would have found a way to increase the number of toilets or at least keep the ones they have in good order – that goes for public primary school in Abuja, if that is the state of a school toilet in the federal capital, it tells a bigger story about others around the country. The newspaper says it was a shame, I call it enlightenment.

I have come to realise that some old habits can be harder to shift so for lack of toilet facilities in public places and homes, may be the best way to go about it in Nigeria is to have a rule that all must follow, we already have plenty of rules that aren’t enforced nor followed, we might as well add a beneficial one to the pile. For example say to have a toilet and wash hand basin for every 1 to 30 people, (number much lower in developed world) and enforced without exceptions. My preferred starting points no doubt would be places of worship, schools, markets etc. Who knows wishes may come true.


** Shalanga = toilet

Categories: Africa, Nigeria

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13 replies

  1. I cannot believe it!! This is not nice. Sigh!! I hope over time and with education mindsets can change. But in India I have read of the same. Sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a bit of a sideways comment for which I apologise. With the availability of modern toilet facilities when Cubs and Scouts go to camp – it’s all there in the toliet block – there’s no hardship or understanding. We used to dig our latrines. We used to fill them in properly after the camp. For the kids of today the knowledge of how to do this properly and why has been lost 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha no apology needed, thanks for stoping by.

      I agree, it’s not like digging pit toilets is not a rocket science, I believe the problem is the bad attitude that has gone beyond it’s time. Mass education and fine for offenders is the way out…


  3. Despite being pressed for time where I am, this is a topping c so close to my heart I must contribute my penny’s worth.

    First of all, thanks for always delving into these subjects that are very important but that get very little attention.

    Thanks to swo8 and JCO for the points made. It’s frighteningly amazing that the richer Nigeria has grown and the supposedly more sophisticated we have become, the more social problems have grown. When I was in Grade/Elementary school in the early to mid 1950s, Nigeria did not pile up loans which, these days, include getting piddling amounts as grants to spread the message of hand washing.

    In front of EVERY classroom in my village school – my spouse who is from a major city reports it was the same at his school – there was a wooden stand with a cavity for an enamel bowl filled with water; a small soap bar was placed alongside the bowl and a peg held a hand towel. Each kid who went to use the pit toilet washed his/her hands before going inside the classroom. There was a song we all learnt by ElementRy/Primary 1:

    L’ori atan in mo it wa/Nko we ‘wo/Nko we ‘se;/Fun mi l’aiye l’ekan soso/K’emi le ko ba e!

    I (the fly) am coming straight from the dung hill
    I’ve washed neither hands nor feet
    Give me just a little chance
    To ruin your health!

    That was educating the kids. You used the toilet, you know you must wash your hands; no preaching, and the song, sung all the time, got it into kids’ heads that it is a must. The government, too, though not rich back then, ensured the provision of the necessities.

    These days, there are grants from the EU and donors a sizeable portion of which goes towards the “marking” of Handwash days; there are procurements by governments At state levels that ensure most of these funds never get to where and what intended for.

    Now, about men always doing it anytime, anywhere and all over the world – very true. In the States, not all the cars with their hoods/bonnets up have carburettor problems. I rest at that as I must run.

    My regards, as always,

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Mrs Adenle for the insightful contribution! You’ve said it all! The habits of washing hands after using toilet at school was long gone before my time – it is such a big shame.

      I heard about community sanitary inspectors too (wolewole) whose job were to make sure communities are kept clean. That went down the drain too.

      The only rented house that I lived with a toilet was in the late 70/early 80s as it was downtown, from then on landlords see no reason for digging toilet in any of the four other houses I lived – none of these guys were poor as they collect rent. One even had a storey building (16 rooms in total) plus a bungalow for himself and family and yet no toilet so we used the swampy space (akuro) beside the building as shalanga.

      Mindset must change.


  4. I liked the last paragraph, it was funny – but I know you are deadly serious with this.
    I won’t go into the bit, that lack of hygiene not only is a health hazard but a bad reflection of the ‘standards’ of the people. What I will say, is that hygiene and it’s importance should be taught in school starting from primary school upwards.
    I think people will gradually get the message, that we can’t talk about the digital revolution and luxury cars, travel overseas, technology etc , while at the same time being perfectly happy to continually go to the toilet in public, when more sanitary methods are available which the rest of the world is rushing or has already adopted.
    Places where the public gathers should have functioning toilets, which should be inspected regularly and the owners fined, if they are not working properly.
    People can drown themselves in all the perfume and aftershave they like, but who are they kidding when their hands are dirty and the stink of faeces? Really there can be no excuses…


    • What can I say, seems satire works for folks.

      Thank you jco, my point exactly that my people refused to get – it is a reflection on all of our standards.
      Agreed, it is bad, no way to mask it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve noticed, when the US military of UK armed forces are deployed in the field, they send engineers out first, their job is to setup rudimentary infrastructure ie drinking water, bathing and toilet facilities for the base camp. These are all done first before the rest of the troops arrive, why because it is common knowledge that these are the basics required for the unit to run properly. So how can a whole nation of 180 million people neglect/ignore such a basic requirement is baffling.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Good example re the armed forces. It will be a miracle if our guys have such decent setup in their camps and I would not be surprised if the government paid for the non-existence facilities. Common knowledge isn’t common for sure.


  5. Same thing happens in India and even China. When there are no toilets avaible here (in the west), men will pee behind a bush but not the women. The women will hold it until they can find a public toilet.This washing the hands is so very important to prevent disease. I would be sure to cook my food well.

    Liked by 1 person

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