The Ministry of Education Science and Technology (MEST) yesterday met with Helen Keller International (HKI) at the Bank Complex, to review the issue of school age deworming programme for this year.
According to Mr. H.M.N. Williams, chairman of the programme, they have found out that the most cost effective way of deworming children regionally is through school, as African children often play on the ground which is a very easy way for them to contact worms, and if they are not properly treated, their attendance in school will deteriorate and that will consequently affect their performance.
He maintained that as a ministry, they do not want to see children dropping out of school as a result of being affected with worm that is why they decided to collaborate with Helen Keller International to help in this fight. “If you are not healthy you cannot do well in school, as it is impossible because studying requires you to work very hard, because the energy you use for studying is greater than the energy you use to do any other physical activities,” he added.
Mr. Williams disclosed that they have trained about two thousand four hundred and ninety-eight (2,498) head teachers and teachers to help the children in school, adding that the District Directors did well in the campaign with some 547,637 primary school children between the age of 12 and 14 years receiving treatment.
Dr. Mary Hodges, Country Director, Helen Keller, disclosed that she had started assisting children in Sierra Leone since 1982 when she was working in the paediatric ward at the 34 military hospital. She maintained that if you look at all the reasons why children are malnourished or die before age five, the three big groups are malaria, diarrhoea diseases and worms as this was very evident.
“If you measure the height and weight of children who have received the deworming treatment, with those that have not received the treatment after six months, you will realise that the children who received the treatment will be heavier and taller than the ones that do not get the treatment,” she added.
She stated that the deworming of pre-school children as a national campaign in Sierra Leone started in 2006 through the ministry “welbodi” programme for “mammy en pikin” and the deworming of school aged children started in 2008/09. She disclosed that the Ministry of Education is gradually extending the role of the deworming programme.
According to her, the Ministry of Education is anticipating targeting all provincial districts with support from WHO as the ministry has been active in providing supervision through out the process.
Susan Asberg, World Bank official, and Task Team Leader, stated that their objective is to improve access and the quality of education in the country as many people think about this by improving buildings and getting books into schools. She said that when she was asked about funding the deworming programme, she also thought that access to quality education is also vital to the child, as a child who is malnourished and too tired cannot get to school or participate in school activities.
“If they do not have worms or are not hungry then they will be able to improve and have better outcome,” she added. She stated that she was impressed with the percentage of children being treated in 2011 as she has to give a report about the outcome.
Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Mr. Reginald King, FTI Coordinator at MEST, stated that they want to thank all for the successful implementation of the school based deworming project, as the Ministry and its development partners have realised that support for building or rehabilitation of primary and secondary schools, providing school furniture, training of primary and junior secondary school teachers, the provision of core curriculum text books and learning materials is only part of what is required to achieve access to quality basic education.
He disclosed that the ministry also notes that it is essential to ensure that children attending primary school are in good health, well nourished and mentally alert in order for them to be active in education in these critical years. “The government through the MEST is aware of the benefit of regular deworming of school age children such as improved physical growth, pupils ability to concentrate and increase school attention,” he says.