Lack of inclusive WASH facilities denies PWDs education

Dr. Elijah Bisung, the Assistant Professor at the Queen’s University, Canada, says the lack of inclusive Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) facilities in schools deprive children with physical disabilities the right to basic education and training.

He said the situation also denied those children the opportunity to develop their full potential, which the country could harness to achieve the needed development.

Dr. Bisung said this at a stakeholders’ engagement in Wa to disseminate research findings on the availability and accessibility of WASH facilities in schools by children with physical disabilities in the Upper West Region.

The two-fold survey engaged school children, including those with physical disabilities in the Nadowli-Kaleo District, to ascertain their challenges in accessing WASH facilities as well as stakeholders in the region to seek their recommendations in improving access to inclusive WASH facilities in schools.

The project was dubbed: “Promoting Access to Inclusive Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services for Students with Physical Disabilities in School Setting in Ghana.”

It had funding support from the Queen’s University, Canada, and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Ghana.

Dr. Bisung, who was the Lead Investigator in the research, stressed the need for inclusive WASH facilities at all levels of society to help advance the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water and sanitation by 2030.

“If we are interested in achieving universal access to water and sanitation by 2030, we must be very interested in the inequalities that exist when it comes to access.

“These inequalities are based on gender, disability and sometimes income, but most at time we see the policies are not geared towards addressing these inequalities,” he explained.

The Assistant Professor, therefore, emphasized the need for strict implementation of existing policies as well as strong stakeholder collaboration between the government and its development partners and the private sector to address the challenges.

Dr. Ebenezer Dassah, a lecturer at the School of Public Health, KNUST and Co-Lead Investigator on the project, indicated that some children with physical disabilities did not eat anything that would compel them to go to the toilet in school due to their difficulty in accessing the WASH facilities in schools and its associated stigma.

“When they try using the toilets because they are not disability friendly, they can’t use some of the things inside the toilet like the tissue … because of that some stopped using the toilet facilities and start using the bush,” he explained.

He observed that with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, PWDs were unable to use the handwashing facilities such as the veronica buckets because they were not designed to be disability friendly.

Dr. Dassah, therefore, advanced the need for such facilities to be disability friendly to reduce the reliance of PWDs on other people for support, saying, “We want them to live independently rather than always relying on people for support.”

Presenting the research finding, Mr. Urbanus Wedaaba Azupogo, a Research Assistant to Dr. Bisung, explained that most students with physical disabilities faced psychosocial stresses due to their inability to access WASH facilities.

“You realize that they feel timid, they feel embarrassed, they feel afraid, they have low self-esteem emanating from the fact that some of their colleagues tease them,” he said.

He added that there were also health challenges associated with the use of the toilet facilities by those children as some of the respondents reported having diarrhea.

The research findings also showed that the level and type of challenges the PWDs faced regarding the use of the WASH facility depended on the form of disability the person had.

The stakeholders in the research also recommended the building of special schools, guidance services, and special training for PWDs among others to help mitigate the challenges.

Participants at the engagement included representatives from the Disability association, the Department of Social Welfare, the Ghana Education Service, and the Environmental Health and Sanitation Department, among others.

Source: Ghana News Agency

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