Motshekga launches schools health initiative

Some details presented at the launch of the national schools health and hygiene initiative. Photo: Leseho Manala


Health and hygiene were highlighted as the foundations for well-being, progress and inclusiveness nationally and on the African continent.

This was said recently at Skeen Primary School by Angie Motshekga, the Minister of Basic Education; and Paul Polman, international head of Unilever, when launching the schools’ health and hygiene initiative which is part of a national school health programme.

The event was also attended by representatives of Unicef, national and provincial government departments and private companies. They lauded the initiative, to be rolled out nationally, as a game changer that will provide millions of Grade 1 children with toothbrushes and toothpaste, teach them about cleanliness and the importance of washing of their hands, and keeping school toilets clean.

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The choice of the venue was appropriate, particularly for poor children whose exclusion, absenteeism and dropping out of school are partly linked to ailments which can be prevented through proper and basic health and hygiene practices.

Motshekga said education was a platform for their inclusion in the mainstream economy and for their personal, family and community’s benefit if they were taught proper health and hygiene practices from an early age.

“The initiative will teach them important soft skills like brushing their teeth daily to prevent tooth decay, to wash their hands with soap after using toilets, and before and after cooking and eating meals to prevent contracting preventable diseases like diarrhoea, getting worms, and ear, eye and throat infections,” she said.

“Improved health will enable millions of children in the country and on the continent to complete their education, be useful citizens and support the department to achieve its outcomes on access, quality, equity and efficiency.”

Granville Whittle, deputy director-general of the department, said the improved health of poor children will reduce absenteeism linked with illnesses and help them to advance their education. “Teachers will also support them with health sessions in class, supervise the use of the toothbrushes [and toothpaste] and soap for washing hands – which will be kept at school. And also keeping the toilets clean,” he said.

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The initiative will run for five years, and the toothbrushes will be replaced after six months. The children will be de-wormed – this initiative is expected to increase from 5.3 million last year to 7 million this year. They will be screened for other ailments by different partners.

Polman said the initiative will compliment Unicef’s sustainable development goals on equitable access to health and hygiene. He said, “The partnership will scale up the number of beneficiaries and resolve the challenge of exclusion, hunger, maternal health and other ills still afflicting the majority on the continent, despite global advancement.”

Parents were urged to support the initiative by improving hygiene at home, and giving the children breakfast to prevent them developing an iron deficiency.

Details: Granville Whittle 082 299 4307.

If you have other ideas on how to spread the message of health and hygiene in the home and community, tell us on the Alex News Facebook page

Leseho Manala

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