The mere mention of the name “Arthur Wina” awakens memories of Zambia’s liberation struggle, as this fallen freedom fighter remains an icon of freedom; freedom to enjoy human rights, good health and quality education.
Or at least one would have thought, but that is not exactly the case at Arthur Wina Basic School in Lusaka, a government-run institution named after the late husband of the incumbent Republican Vice-President, Inonge Mutukwa Wina.
This short story is not intended to drag the “Arthur Wina” name into the pit latrine, literally. To the contrary, this is perhaps an attempt to pull the dignified name out of the smelly, filthy pit latrines at this monumental institution that is expected to advance the values espoused by the late gallant son of the soil.
Pupils at Arthur Wina Primary School in Lusaka’s Chalala area have been using pit latrines for their sanitary needs. Not just pit latrines, but such dirty pit latrines that one can only expect to find in a congested prison facility which has no supervisor.
One pupil, afraid of catching diarrhea at the school, revealed the horrific story to News Diggers! and an on the spot check found the horrific situation worse than it was narrated.
Arthur Wina does have eight flushable toilets on-site, but all of them are currently out of order and remain locked, subjecting the general school population to the unsanitized latrines.
“I think there is one or two [flushable toilets] that work, but those should be for teachers only, the rest of the pupils use pit latrines. Mumankala doti kambili; benangu bama tundila pansi, so niku chekin’ga chekin’ga ukalibe ku ngena. (The pit latrines are usually filthy, some pupils just urinate on the floor, so you must first check where to step when you are going in),” said the pupil who sought anonymity.
The school head teacher refused to explain this mess, saying “we have no permission to speak to you, unless you get permission from the district education board.”
Obviously the government authorities have a reasonable explanation for this state of affairs, this reporter thought, considering that this school is not only within Lusaka District of Lusaka Province, but is also named after a national hero whose wife is now the second most powerful leader in the country; but the response from the highest authorities was nothing more than an expression of surprise as they apparently didn’t know about this.
“I am not aware that the said school uses pit latrines,” said Local government minister, Vincent Mwale, who at the time of the interview was doubling as acting general education minister.
“Maybe the substantive minister (David Mabumba) is aware, I do not know. But I am going to call the Permanent Secretary just now to actually investigate the issue because Arthur Wina is not far way from the Headquarters, the centre of power, the Ministry of General Education, and to have it operating under pit latrines is not conducive. So I am going to call him now that you have given me this information,” said Mwale.
The Mayor of Lusaka too didn’t know about this situation and he was as shocked as the minister, to learn that such a health hazard has been natured at the school where thousands go to learn good hygiene.
“It’s a government school, isn’t it? We are moving away from using pit latrines; we should have running water. That area does not have a problem with water so I don’t know why they are using pit latrines! Thank you for alerting me, I will go and check on the school management so that they provide the best standards of toilets, especially in the capital city,” said His Worship Miles Sampa in an interview.
“We do not want any school using pit latrines! If anything we do not want any home using pit latrines, but for a public school that is unacceptable! I will go there!”
This surprise from the government authorities is surprising because the school holds what it calls “Arthur Wina Day” celebrations annually where policy makers are invited to make speeches about the importance of quality education and to pay tribute to the man behind the name.
In August 2014, actually, Vice-President Inonge Wina attended the Open Day celebrations at the school in her capacity then as Gender Minister; and talked about Education being the key to success.
But it appears that getting this key to success at Arthur Wina School involves going through really filthy toilets.