Governments around the world have over the years focused their attention on expanding basic education to a greater number of schoolaged children. These efforts have proven massively successful, resulting in a greater number of children attending school. The same situation is prevalent in South Africa, making the school a key setting where health and education programmes can join hands to improve and maintain basic health, nutrition and education of children.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation deem school health programmes essential for the successful development of children into adults. The following benefits can be attributed to a well-implemented school health programme:

More efficient childhood development

School health programmes are essential to complimenting early childhood care and development programmes. More countries have introduced programmes to ensure that learners enter school fit, healthy and ready to learn. School-aged children continue to be at risk of ill health throughout their years of schooling, making ongoing school health programmes critical if children are to get the best out of their opportunity for formal learning.

Ensures better educational outcomes

Learners often suffer from highly prevalent conditions that can adversely affect their development. Micronutrient deficiencies; common parasitic infections; poor vision and hearing and disability can have a detrimental effect on schooling. These often affect the attendance, cognition and educational achievement of the children. In older children, avoidance of risky behaviours can reduce the dropout rate due or disinterest in learning as the health impairment compounds the learning challenges.

Achieves greater social equity

As a result of universal basic education strategies, some of the most disadvantaged children, in particular girls; children with disabilities and the rural poor, are for the first time gaining access to a formal education. Their ability to attend school is often compromised by poor health. These are the children who will benefit most from health interventions, since they are likely to show the greatest improvements in attendance and learning achievement. School health programmes can therefore help modify the effects of socioeconomic and gender-related inequities.

Highly cost effective strategy

School health programmes help link the resources of the health, education, nutrition, and sanitation sectors in an infrastructure, the school. The school system coverage is often superior to health systems and the accessibility of school health programmes to a large proportion of learners contributes to the low cost of programmes. The effectiveness is measurable in terms not only of improved health and nutrition, but also of improved educational outcomes, reduced wastage, less repetition and generally enhanced returns on education investments.

School-based health programmes can be amongst the most costeffective of public health interventions; promoting learning, and simultaneously reducing absenteeism. Our visionis to screen 20000 learners by 2020 using our mobile clinic health programmes to reach more community.

Sources: Unicef, WHO

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