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INVESTIGATION : How water crisis in Bauchi’s community is swelling number of out-school-children 



 INVESTIGATION How water crisis in Bauchi s community is swelling number of out school children
Water crisis is pushing children out of school in  Gabchiyari, a hard- to reach community in Darazo Local Government Area of Bauchi State, further worsening the situation of out-of-school children in the state.
A 2018 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), revealed that Bauchi State has 1.1 million out of school children in the North.
As the figures grows, stakeholders including the governor, Senator Bala Mohammed are worried that decisive steps must be taken to address it to safeguard the future.
However, the  age- long water crisis in this community is a threat to efforts  of provision of opportunities to children to reach their full potentil in life through sound education.
The water problem in Gabchiiyari came to fore during a field visit on Thursday 16th March,2023 , organised by UNICEF Field office, Bauchi, as parts of commemoration of World Water Day every  March  22 to highlight issues around water globally.
Hafsat Aliyu, 14, is a student of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Secondary School in Gabchiyari, is one of the few children fortunate to be in school  while many of her peers in the community are searching for water.
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Hafsat  fetches water before going to school as is common in Gabchiiyari.
She says her parents cannot afford to buy water from commercial boreholes  that have sprung up to cash in on the water problem.
The task of getting water seems to have fallen on children in this community owing to purdah.
Hafsat, and many other kids some as young as five are saddled with getting water water for the family needs.
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There two wells in the community but they are so deep that they are out of bound for children, so to say.
Hafsat says drawing water from the wells in the community is too difficult for children, adding that it is not an option.
She and her siblings prefer to go to the stream, which far from her house, to get water, instead of the well, which is more or less reserved for adults who come from Hamlets within  Gabchiiyari.
She and her siblings usually wake up 5 O’Clock every morning to to the stream to fetch water before going to school.
“We are eight children in my family,” she says.
She bears signs of a child affected by the daily rigorous of getting water in a typical rural Nigerian community, where basic amenities are elusive.
“When we go to the stream to fetch water we sometimes miss school or come late,” she says.
“I used to go with my siblings to the river because the well is that too deep”
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Hafsat father and  mother are both tailors based in the community
“They do not have money to take all of us to school, so some of my siblings are not in school,” she says.
Hafsat is sad that the water problem in her community has prevented many of her friends from going to school.
She feels sorry for them because she believes education can make life better.
Hafsat is motivated by the struggle to get water to study hard  and become a better person in the future to help address the water problem.
She is however worried that her dream might be truncated as a result of the daily struggle to get water
“During dry season we suffer more to get water and l have to sometimes skip school” she recounts.
“At home my mother ensures that we don’t waste water,” she explains.
” My mother has to ensure that we manage the little we have to cook, clean the house and wash our clothes”
There are two pit toilets in Hafsat school but they are almost out of use because there is no water.
‘l usually take excuse from my teachers and go home any time l am pressed,” she says.
Gabchiyari has one primary school and one secondary school with students and pupil population of about 200.
The secondary school has only two teachers while the primary section had only a teacher.
A member of the community who pleaded guilty, said teachers are shunning the community because  of the problem of water.
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Haruna Belli Mohammed, the Principal of the secondary school,  reveals that Gabchiyari children spend less time in school because they go  searching for water on daily basis.
Belli Mohammed said the school is usually flexible in addressing the issues of late coming and absenteeism  by pupils because everyone understands the water problem bin the community.
He, however, appealed to government to address the water problem because it was impacting negatively on the children’s education.
The Ward Development Community Chairman of Gabchiyari, Aliyu Alhaji says  that lack adequate water affects school enrollment and retention.
Allhaji says children spend school hours seeking for water and thereby missing school or abandoning it all together.
According to the WDC Chairman, those children that made the effort to fetch  water and still attend school usually attend classes late and are usually fatigued to comprehend what they are being taught.
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Although there are two commercial boreholes exist in Dapchari, only a few residents can afford to buy water, sold for at N10 for five litres.
Hundreds of cattle are seen drinking water at the boreholes while humans  also struggling to fetch for a fee.
There two old wells in Dapchari but both are over 50 feet  deep and only adults usually draw water from them.
The wells are so deep that a teenager can spend close to 10 minutes to get draw a bucket  of water from the
Children and a few adults can be seen with buckets or gallons going about in search of water.
Children from households that can afford it, are seen with bicycle carriages to carry gallons of water, which can ease the burden of carrying water from long distances.
Called amalamke, the carriage can carry several gallons of water.
Around the school, faeces are seen at a nearby bush.
Indeed Gabchiiyari is a community waiting to be rescued from its age  lack of portable water.
Mallam Mohammed Garba, the District head of Gabchiyari , lamented the number of hours being wasted by students and others in surrounding hamlets seeking for water in the community.
He said  the commercial boreholes was taking its toll on the  few residents of the community who can afford it.
“Our water challenge is compounded by the absence of road, ” he says
“Surrounding hamlets travel between 3-5 kilometers to access paid potable water. So, you can imagine the productive hours wasted in getting water”
Garba appeals to the Bauchi State Government and other stakeholders to address the water problem in the community.
“We are overwhelmed by the problem of water because of our animals and our people who cone from the hamlets
“They come early in the morning and spend several hours to get water so if the problem can be addressed we would be grateful because those who come and spend so much time to fetch water the problem will be eased
“We appreciate the UNICEF for coming to intervene and raising awareness about the problem of water in our community.
“I call on relevant authority to support their intervention so that we can have access certain basic things to ease suffering of our people..
“Apart from water, we  need road.
“A good road can save us from wasting precious hours
“Gabchiiyari is about 25 kilometres to Darazo but our people spend hours going to market to sell their products such as rice, beans, millet, and so on but the road is a problem”
The  Coordinator, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)  for Darazo, Ibrahim Mohammed Hassan believes a solution is underway.
Hassan says that the State Government has mainstreamed the LGA into a WASH project under the African Development Bank intervention signed by the State Government.
He says that the only water scheme that will be productive in Gabchiyari community would be a motorized or solar powered borehole.
“It takes a minimum of 90 feet before we could hit water level here,” he explains.
“This is because of the topography of the area.
” So, you can see that a hand pump borehole will not serve the purpose here”
World leaders and relevant organisations convenef or the UN 2023 Water Conference, Dr. Jane Bevan, the Chief of WASH for UNICEF Nigeria, called for urgent action to address the water crisis in Nigeria.
According UNICEF, 78 million children in Nigeria are at the highest risk from a convergence of three water-related threats – inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); related diseases; and climate hazards.
One out if every three  children do not have access to at least basic water at home, and two-thirds do not have basic sanitation services, it says..
“Hand hygiene is also limited, with three-quarters of children unable to wash their hands due to lack of water and soap at home
“As a result, Nigeria is one of the 10 countries that carry the heaviest burden of child deaths from diseases caused by inadequate WASH, such as diarrhoeal diseases,” UNICEF says
 It discloses that Nigeria ranks second out of 163 countries globally with the highest risk of exposure to climate and environmental threats.
“Groundwater levels are also dropping, requiring some communities to dig wells twice as deep as just a decade ago,” UNICEF revealed.
“At the same time, rainfall has become more erratic and intense, leading to floods that contaminate scarce water supplies.
“We need to rapidly scale-up investment in the sector, including from global climate financing, strengthen climate resilience in the WASH sector and communities, increase effective and accountable systems, coordination, and capacities to provide water and sanitation services, and implement the UN-Water SDG6 Global Acceleration Framework.
“If we continue at the current pace, it will take 16 years to achieve access to safe water for all in Nigeria. We cannot wait that long, and the time to move quickly is now. Investing in climate-resilient water, sanitation, and hygiene services is not only a matter of protecting children’s health today, but also ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come, “said Dr. Jane Bevan.

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