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Inside UDUS: Indiscriminate waste disposal threatens students’ health

After returning from his morning lecture on Thursday, 18 May 2023, Abdulbasit Yusuf stared pitifully at some little children scavenging his hostel’s dumpsite. 

From the look on his face, it is evident that he felt sorry for the children and their ignorance. When he was questioned on why his hostel and the nearby hostels dump refuse in the open place, he responded that their landlord did not provide them with a trash bin and they have no other option than to dispose of their wastes openly.

This reporter learnt that some students often volunteer to burn refuse when the dumpsite overflows. 

Little children scavenging a dumping site in front of Abdulbasit Yusuf’s hostel

“You won’t like to pass by the dumpsite when they burn the refuse because they set fire to all the refuse without separating the things that can and cannot be burned. The smoke from the burning usually makes the atmosphere toxic,” said Mr Yusuf.

The management of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto (UDUS) employs cleaners that keep the campus and school hostels clean. Also, trash bins with ‘Keep UDUS Clean’ written on them are placed across the faculties for proper waste disposal. 

A trash bin placed along Faculty of Art

However, bins are not provided at private hostels and the school mini-marts, leading to improper waste disposal. Students residing in private hostels in Benji, Shama, among others and business owners at the mini-marts dispose of waste openly.

“Landlords often do not care about this stuff; the management should make provisions for us since we are also in the school environment. If bins are placed strategically, we will be obliged to use them; if not, students will have no option but to continue disposing of refuse openly,” Mr Yusuf said.

A visit to another private hostel, popularly known as the 80K hostel in the Benji area, revealed how students dump refuse in different corners of the compound. Flies were seen hovering around the wastes dumped on the waterways and drainages in the compound. The hostel, which has male and female residents, appeared untidy and unhealthy.

Waste dumped within 80K hostel

In an interview with a hostel resident, Ola Kareem, a 400-level student of Sociology, lamented the state of the hostel environment. He blamed the landlord and caretaker for not providing them with waste bins. “They (landlord and caretaker) are collecting hostel rent from us, so they should care for us,” he said.

Mr Kareem said, “When the dirty and odour is too much, the residents pay Yaro boys to clean the environment.”

Businesses and mini-marts follow unhealthy trends, endanger students

A look around the university’s environment revealed that business owners at the school’s mini-marts also openly dispose of waste around their shops. People, especially little children, use the nearby dumpsite for open defecation. It was observed that foodstuff sellers always leave their goods, such as rice, beans, and garri, on open display to attract customers. The wind often carries sand and scatters light refuse like nylons into the mini-marts.

Foodstuffs openly displayed at school mini-mart

A 300-level student of the Education Foundation department, Abdulrasaq Mustapha, recounted how he found sand and small stones in some cups of rice and garri he bought from one of the shops at the mini-mart. 

“I have stopped buying foodstuffs from them unless I don’t have an option. I used to eat at the mini-mart but in a restaurant far from the dumping site, and I will check the environment very well before eating,” he stated. 

Used syringes dumped at the back of MELL department

Mr Mustapha said that the chemist and pharmaceutical shops in the mini-mart should be held responsible for the used syringes and some other clinical wastes found on different dumping sites around the mini-mart.

More health threats

Although the university’s clinic appears neat, the cleaners dump most of the waste collected from the clinic behind the fence. 

The clinic’s Director of Health, Dr Ibrahim Umar, said that he informed the personnel in charge immediately after noticing the improper waste disposal around the hospital’s fence but did not know that he was not heeded. 

While the reporter was there, he summoned the man in charge of the waste, Mallam Umar Muhammad Sheu and charged him to gather his colleagues to clear the trash. 

“You know I have talked about this before, so talk to your people to burn the refuse and stop dumping anything there, henceforth they should use the motorable dustbin that will take it away from the clinic,” Dr Ibrahim told Mallam Umar, who then assured the reporter that, “the director has given an order and we will take action in the coming week.”

Stakeholders intervene

The chairman of the Students’ Union caretaker committee, Shamsudeen Umar, a 500-level student of Law, promised to intervene in the matter.

“The Students’ Union will send a letter to the leaders of the business owners association to caution them about the act. The same thing to the landlords of the private hostels; we will explain the necessity of the bins to them and the consequences of improper waste disposal,” he assured.

He added, “To that end, we have some trash bins that will be distributed to the private hostels during the week, but it will not be enough.”

The university’s Dean of Students Affair, Professor Umar Aliyu, expressed displeasure over the improper waste disposal around the mini-marts. 

“The business owners need to be sensitised on the importance of proper waste management and the menace of improper waste disposal,” he said.

He noted that the school authority would provide them with a garbage point far from the mini-mart and fence it with blocks for a clean environment.

Expert weighs in

The Chief Executive Officer of Securecycle Environmental and Climate Change Initiative, Emmanuel Kilaso, explained, “Improper waste disposal can lead to environmental pollution. Incorrect waste disposal can contaminate soil, water bodies, and the surrounding environment. This pollution can harm ecosystems, disrupt the natural balance, and negatively impact plant and animal life.

“Improper waste disposal creates breeding grounds for pests, such as rodents and insects, which can spread diseases. It can also attract stray animals, posing a risk of animal bites and associated infections. Additionally, if the waste contains hazardous materials, improper disposal can result in the release of toxic substances that can harm human health.”

Mr Kilaso continued by saying that waste attracts flies, rats and other vermin, which could lead to health issues and endemics.

He added that “Burning of refuse poses serious adverse effects. It releases harmful gases and pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to air pollution. It can also cause uncontrolled fires, posing a risk to nearby structures, vegetation and endangering the safety of individuals on campus.”

Burning refuse in one of mini-marts’ dumping site

Mr Kilaso further explained that improperly disposed waste can harbour disease-causing pathogens. When students come into contact with contaminated faeces, directly or indirectly, they risk contracting diseases such as gastrointestinal infections, respiratory illnesses, skin infections, and other infectious diseases.

“Proper waste disposal practices, promoting recycling initiatives, providing adequate waste management infrastructure, and raising awareness about the consequences of improper waste disposal are essential steps to ensure a healthy and conducive environment for students’ well-being on campus,” he concluded.

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