Education is one word that covers so much scope in knowledge, development, and innovation. Education is the magic word that creates and sets the pace for the present and future. But, as powerful a word as education is, health is equally as (and we dare say even more) powerful. The global lockdown of 2020 has shown the world a glimpse of what a worldwide health crisis can entail. Therefore, finding a shared space that cuts across education and health is a surreal discovery. For a while now, educational institutions have been a platform through which health and healthy living is promoted.
CMADI with support from school principals in Warri South Local Government Area works with staff, and school board members from public schools in Ubeji, Egbokodo Itsekiri and Ifie communities as part of of the Health Promoting School flagship programme. The aim of the programme is to increase the capacity of of schools to implement the health promoting school initiative and prepare better to minimithe se impact of health outbreaks and other public health events on schools.
Like many other countries, Nigeria has a comprehensive school health programme. The school health programme was defined in the National School Health Policy as a series of harmonized projects/activities in the school environment for the promotion of health and development of the school community (FME, 2006). The components of the SHP vary from country to country both in structure and in content. The variations though are slight due mainly to differences in prevailing health problems. The SHP as constituted in NSHP has five components as follows: a healthful school environment, school feeding services, skill-based health education, school health services and school, home and community relationships. Each of the components plays various roles in ensuring the best healthy environment for effective learning. However, due to quite a number of challenges, the implementation of the policy has not been significantly achieved across schools in Nigeria.
The goal of this initiative is to provide comprehensive health services for all school-going children including annual health screening, provision of safe water and improved sanitation, promotion of healthy lifestyle and good nutrition, and ensuring safe spaces for learners and school personnel. CMADI works with the school health policy as a not-for-profit organisation to ensure that all school children in coastal communities in the Niger Delta acquire the knowledge and skills they need to make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing and to improve their quality of life.
COVID-19 drew attention to the deficits in education and health systems to ensure that learners are protected from the impact of major public health events and can continue their education with minimum disruptions. A recent unpublished report on the Impact of Covid-19 on Adolescents and Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), highlighted the impact of COVID 19 on learners in relation to access to essential sexual and reproductive health information, exposure to gender-based violence (GBV), increased pregnancy, and continuation of schools.
Staff and studentsparticipating in this programme covering SS1-SS3 share their experiences relating to creating a conducive learning environment, highlighting poor water and sanitation infrastructures in schools. These experiences are not unique to the Warri South Local Government Area. There are reports about poor learning conditions and environment for learners and staff in school locally and nationally. The introduction of the health promoting school initiative provides schools with a strategy to address these challenges and provide systematic sustainable solutions over a period. The need to train the regional school health committees, school staff and school boards, and health care providers is imperative to ensure that schoolsin the Niger Delta embrace the health promoting school initiative.
CMADI introduced the project through school teens’ clubs in Ubeji Grammar School, Atuwatse II College and Egbokodo Secondary School. With the volunteers and project co-ordinators, we seek to empower, educate, enlighten and support young people with the right skills and information that will enable them to make positive life choices regarding their education, mental health, career, personal development, social environment and relationships. Clubs holds every Wednesday and Friday at the respective schools with over 50 participants per school.
We invest this much attention and resources in the younger generation because we aim to build a future where leaders are based on a solid foundation. Our goals and visions are our driving force, and these factors influenced all we have done in the first quarter of this year.
So far, we have held sessions on topics ranging from gender equality, adolescent health, career, nutrition and oral health, and identity. We marked UN days such as, The International Day of Education with the theme of investing in individuals and prioritizing education. As an organisation that has its core programs in environment, we mark Wetlands day with the theme, restoring wetlands.
We celebrated the International Day of Girls and Women in Science day by hosting young girls at the Falcorp Mangrove Park, Ijala Ikenren, inviting female Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professionals to encourage the girls to choose careers in STEM and share their stories as part of the STEM advocacy. The girls also participated in an essay competition on the topic,”Why is it important for girls to be in science and how sustainable development goals can influence it.”
We hope to do more in the next quarter, we need volunteers to work with us.