We’re supporting governments to make sure no child is left behind

News Hour:

Sightsavers has teamed up with The World Bank and Imperial College London’s Partnership for Child Development (PCD) to support governments in Africa and Asia to strengthen their national school health and nutrition programmes. The initiative is supported and funded by the Global Partnership for Education, which supports more than 60 low and middle income countries to ensure that every child receives a quality basic education, prioritising the poorest and most marginalised.

“Healthy and happy children are more able to learn. Through this programme many children who would otherwise face a life excluded from education will be able to attend and stay in school and ultimately enjoy a higher quality learning experience.”

Every year children in low-income countries miss up to 500 million school days due to common health problems, such as poor nutrition, worm infection, visual impairment and disability. Schools provide a cost-effective platform to deliver simple health interventions which are proven to reduce absenteeism and drop-out rates, and improve child cognition and learning.

“Schools can be effective in delivering health education as well as proven, simple and affordable health interventions that benefit children and improve their learning,” said Alice Albright, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Partnership for Education. “This initiative fosters the virtuous cycle of health and education and helps strengthening national education planning.”

This new initiative aims to catalyse a greater understanding of how governments can mainstream school health and nutrition interventions into national education sector plans. The initiative is focused on two cornerstones of school health and nutrition: deworming and vision screening. These two simple interventions can be used as a platform for other interventions.

“School health in general is important for the development of children and affects their ability to learn and succeed,” said Claudia Costin, World Bank Senior Director for Education. “Improving the health and nutritional status of school-age children has a significant impact on the timing of their enrollment, the frequency of their attendance, and their performance in school.”

In the first instance the initiative will support governments in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana and Senegal, to distribute treatments for intestinal worms and screen the eyes of 40,000 school children, giving glasses to those who need them.

“Achieving education for all is not just about providing textbooks and teachers, we also need to look after the health and well-being of children,” said Dr. Lesley Drake, Executive Director of PCD. “Healthy and happy children are more able to learn. Through this programme many children who would otherwise face a life excluded from education will be able to attend and stay in school and ultimately enjoy a higher quality learning experience.”

Currently more than 600 million school-age children are infected with parasitic worms, and deworming is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase school participation. At a cost of US$0.50 per child per year, school-based deworming is able to reduce the incidence of infection and school absenteeism by 25 percent.

“Successfully integrating vision screening and deworming programmes in school systems can significantly reduce absenteeism, drop-out rates and improve learning outcomes and cognition for children. This will create a platform by which other health initiatives can be integrated and delivered in a cost-effective manner,” said Dr. Imran A. Khan, Strategic Director of the programme and Chief Global Technical Lead at Sightsavers.

Similar to worm infection, refractive error – the need for spectacles – also limits many children’s opportunities in school. Around 10 percent of schoolchildren in low-income countries have refractive errors and in almost all cases this can be corrected with appropriately fitted eyeglasses. However, the majority of children in low-income countries do not have eyeglasses due to a lack of awareness, unavailability of optometrists, and the high cost of eyeglasses.

This approach has already been successfully piloted in partnership with the Cambodian government in 2012. Over 13,000 children were screened and treated and over 100 teachers and government staff were trained in the methodology.

The partnership is working with experts in the field to develop guidance materials to allow governments to re-create similar programmes on a wider scale.

Children with disabilities, poor health and nutrition represent one of the most marginalised groups in society. This new initiative will enable governments to deliver inclusive and sustainable school health nutrition programmes that ensure that no child, however disadvantaged, is left behin

Md. Rafiuzzaman Sifat, a CSE graduate turned into journalist, works at News Hour as a staff reporter. He has many years of experience in featured writing in different Bangladeshi newspapers. He is an active blogger, story writer and social network activist. He published a book named 'Se Amar Gopon' inEkushe boi mela Dhaka 2016. Sifat got a BSc. from Ahsanullah University of Science & Technology, Bangladesh. He also works as an Engineer at Bangla Trac Communications Ltd. As an avid traveler and a gourmet food aficionado, he is active in publishing restaurant reviews and cutting-edge articles about culinary culture.
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