Tippy taps: How pupils in Anambra engineer running water when borehole taps are dry

DURING much of the school hours, newly installed water points remain dry at Anuli Community School in Ezinifite, Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State.  Faced with this problem, pupils in the school have found alternative. They use a device known as tippy tap to keep running water even when the borehole has been turned off.

A new water facility at a nearby community, Ononaku Ezinifite, was reticulated over 100 meters to the school. But this borehole does not run all day-long thereby denying the pupils access to running water to wash their hands at the school’s taps after visiting the toilet.

The school has no control over the borehole. It is maintained by leaders of Ononaku Ezinifite who decided to pump water from the borehole for about three hours in the morning. During this period, about 2,560 members of the community are expected to store enough water until the next day.

Ike Christian who is a member of the committee that manages the water facility told The ICIR that the decision to restrict the flow of water from the borehole is to save cost in fuelling the generator and also ensure that the water is not misused.

The community’s managerial decision on the water facility, however, deprives the pupils of running water during the school hours.  This has forced the school to also store water when the borehole is opened, just like the rest of the community.

While the school has water stored in plastic containers, it has not solved the problem of hygiene which brought about the water project in the community. The borehole was implemented by the Unicef, the UN children’s agency, with funding from the European Union.  It was part of the Water Supply, Sanitation and Sector Reform Project being implemented by Unicef in 20 local governments in six states.

As the borehole water points are mostly dry during school hours, tippy taps have become the convenient means to maintain hygiene in the school. The tippy tap is an improvised device for hand-washing with running water. The pupils bore a tiny hole on the cap of water bottles. The bottles are filled with water, tied with robes and suspended on sticks. The children tip the bottles to provide running water.

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) experts say the tippy taps are hygienic because the pupils only touch the soap and wash their hands from the water flowing from the bottles.

In Anuli Community School, each class has its own tippy taps by the entrance of the class. When pupils empty the bottles, they refill from the water in the covered containers they earlier fetch when water is pumped from the borehole.

Francisca Onyebuchi, the head teacher of the school, told The ICIR that the borehole does not run all the time but the good thing is that pupils have been freed from bringing water to school from their homes.

“Pupils were going to the bush to defecate but they used to bring water from home to school before the water points were installed,” Onyebuchi said.

The water project by Unicef also provided toilets in the school. After going to toilets, the pupils wash their hands with running water from the tippy taps.

A pupil demonstrates how she uses tippy taps at Anuli Community School

Clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices, which Anuli Community School embodies, are essential for the survival and development of children, according to Unicef. But many children in Nigeria are often denied these basic facilities both at homes and schools.

According to Unicef, “every year, an estimated 124,000 children under the age of 5 die because of diarrhoea, mainly due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. Lack of adequate water and sanitation are also major causes of other diseases, including respiratory infection and under-nutrition.

    “Many schools in Nigeria lack safe, private toilets and hand-washing facilities. This affects enrolment and performance, particularly in the case of girls. The impact of water, hygiene and sanitation falls disproportionately on women and girls, the main carriers of waters.”

    With less than five percent of Nigerians having access to improved drinking water source that is accessible on premises, available when needed and free from contamination, Nigeria is likely to miss the sixth goal of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

    “Sanitation is declining instead of increasing in Nigeria,” said Mainga Moono Banda, a WASH specialist with Unicef. “Communities are slipping back to open defecation.”

    As Nigeria has not made much progress in water, sanitation and hygiene, public health specialists say that tippy taps – the likes at Anuli Community School – could be the most cost-effective means of maintaining hygiene and avoiding infections at rural schools.


    Chikezie can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @KezieOmeje

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