Partnership essential to promote school health – Baksh
“What do you do when someone tries to interfere with you? Be sure to tell your parents, an adult or your teacher. Do not keep it to yourself.” This precautionary measure was offered to scores of school children by representatives who were tasked to man the Child Protection Agency Booth, which made up the more than 20 display booths at the Ministry of Education Health Fair yesterday.
The activity, which came as part of the continued observance of Education Month was held at the Young Men’s Christian Association Ground.
Among the entities that collaborated in yesterday’s fair were the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, Human Services and Labour, the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Pharmaceutical Company, the Rotary Club of Georgetown, the Carnegie School of Home Economics, among several other agencies.
Minister of Education, Shaik Baksh, in his feature address to a gathering of students, teachers, other education officials among others, highlighted that the health fair has become an integral part of Education Month of activities.
This feature will continue once he remains at the helm of the sector, he said.
According to the Minister unlike last year, this year’s health fair offered a mobile oral health clinic, which he noted, came as part of the Ministry’s oral health screening programme.
“This is but one activity that we are collaborating very closely with the Ministry of Health. It is a good partnership between two Ministries and we have been able to set up the School Health, Nutrition and HIV/AIDS Unit with the Ministry about two years now and it has been very active in promoting health issues in the school system.
“These include vision, ear and oral health screening…One of the first things that the Unit did was to declare the school system smoke free zones.”
The move to include schools as smoke free zones, Baksh noted, was well embraced by Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy who also sought to similarly declare some places of work smoke-free zones. Baksh noted that in addition to the recognised dangers of smoking, the Ministry is also poised to guard against any other kind of drug use and alcohol consumption in the school.
“The Chief Education Officer only recently sent out a reminding circular that alcohol consumption will not be permitted whether the school is used for social activities or otherwise.
We have had a recent case in Georgetown where the school is used for extensive consumption of alcohol and we have now banned that activity. No consumption of alcohol, no smoking in the school compounds and schools and we are monitoring that.”
And given the fact that the School Health Unit is an important part of the Ministry’s Strategic Plan, the Minister disclosed that clear objectives have been outlined.
Accordingly he noted that the successful implementation of the plan is dependent on the existing partnership with entities such as the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Guyana Red Cross.
The Red Cross, according to Baksh, has been activating in water and sanitation system’s development especially in the hinterland communities. “To all of these partners I want to publicly say that the Ministry of Education appreciates their service to us in promoting health issues in the school system and we will work towards strengthening these…”
But according to the Minister, the partnership must also extend to parents and communities both of which have very instrumental roles to play in various aspects of a child’s development.
Through the school unit, Baksh noted that efforts must be made to ensure that parents give their children the right kinds of food and ensure that their nutrition level is adequate. “We have to provide the education…So it is a big partnership if we are to succeed.”
Yesterday, the Ministry of Education launched its Policy Document on School Health, Nutrition and HIV/AIDS.
The document, the Minister said, was developed with the support of UNESCO and the World Bank through a consultancy and will be the seminal document to assist the Ministry to really strengthen school health and nutrition.
Chief Planning Officer, Mrs Evelyn Hamilton, shared details about the policy to the gathering at the opening ceremony of the fair, disclosures that were endorsed by PAHO/WHO Representatives, Dr Kathleen Israel.
Director of Adolescent and Health within the Health Ministry also grace the ceremony in the stead of Health Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy.
The Health Fair was kicked into action with the melodious steel pan sounds created by students of the North Ruimveldt Multilateral Secondary School.