Why paying for toilets should not surprise us

A woman walks past a closed public toilet near Kenya National Archives, Nairobi, May 13, 2021. [David Njaaga, Standard]

A notice inside a toilet door in a Nakuru mall justifies why one should pay Sh20 to use the toilet. The reasons include paying the cleaner, buying detergents, and repairs among others. The word toilet I hear is old-fashioned. The cool name now is washroom (even when there is no water) or loos. 

It all started in Nairobi after “kanjo” toilets stopped functioning or got new owners. It is now standard to pay for bathroom services. I even found out that's the case in Tanzania. And mobile toilets are standard in Kenya, for hire.

Does it make economic sense to pay for the use of toilets? Someone will quickly add that we pay for sewerage services with our water bills and there is nothing unusual about that. We pay for blood, why not eject waste from our bodies? 

We could add that some toilets are private property and charging makes economic sense. Those who have used private toilets admit they are cleaner and more hygienic. Customers feel they get value for their money. 

Paying for toilets should not surprise us. The private sector fills the void where the public sector is either overwhelmed or dysfunctional. That’s why we have private schools, hospitals and morgues, among others. 

It’s curious that in the same town (oh city). Another sign board advertises a public toilet. I see lots of petrol stations advertising their clean toilets, an attraction to travellers who could go beyond the bathroom and buy something.

The lack of good public toilets is a symptom of deeper malice, we never think about those in the lower echelons of society. And we are inhuman. How can’t we put toilets including on the highways? Noted the free rest areas in the USA interstate system? How come we can copy their constitution and not their common sense? Do we need to be told to build toilets?

Can counties provide basic sanitary facilities in places with a major concentration of people? What are cheaper roads, highways, or toilets? Curiously, do we want tourism to thrive? When getting a  toilet is a nightmare? Where can you rest on the 500km Nairobi-Mombasa road? 0r 700 km Nairobi-Moyale road? Unfortunately, we have cleared bushes along most highways…

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