NMU partners with Swiss university in fitness drive
In an attempt to improve the fitness and activity levels of children in Nelson Mandela Bay, students from two universities will be designing easy-to-use toolkits for teachers.
The toolkits will be set up by students from Nelson Mandela University and Switzerland’s University of Basel as part of the KaziBantu Project.
NMU’s Professor Cheryl Walters said they were responding to research conducted over the past four years that showed very few children were getting the 60 minutes of active movement a day that they needed for good health.
The KaziBantu Project was launched in October by NMU’s human movement science department.
Professor Uwe Pushe, from the University of Basel, said the KaziBantu Project was a continuation of the DASH (Disease, Activity and Schoolchildren’s Health) study.
He said it was funded by the Novartis Foundation and was a joint collaboration between University of Basel, the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, and NMU.
Pushe said Unesco (the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) was also very interested in the ongoing studies.
Walters said the programme spanned three years.
For the KaziBantu study, the same 1 000 children, from eight disadvantaged schools in Port Elizabeth, who were assessed through the DASH study would be assessed.
The DASH study was designed to ascertain the health and fitness levels of pupils in impoverished schools in Nelson Mandela Bay.
The DASH study showed that in some schools up to 60% of children were infected with intestinal parasites and that this affected their ability to concentrate and academic performance.
Walters said that following their study, the Eastern Cape Department of Health started annual mass deworming campaigns in the affected areas.
Other small and easy-to-implement interventions, focusing on hygiene and activity levels, were also implemented to improve children’s ability to focus at school.
Walters said the next step would be to design toolkits for teachers to improve physical education, health, hygiene and nutrition.
She said they would also be focusing on teachers’ health as their research showed teachers themselves were at high risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
Intervention would include lifestyle coaching and the development of a cellphone app to assist teachers.
The KaziBantu Project would be supported by the health and education departments, Walters said.
Pushe and Walters yesterday joined a number of students and presented an aerobic dance class to pupils in grades 4 to 7 at Walmer Primary School and also continued with fitness testing of pupils at the school.