The health and wellbeing of children in our poorest communities must remain in the spotlight and that is why the KaziBantu project, Healthy Schools for Healthy Communities, has an important role to play in Nelson Mandela Bay.
The project, a collaboration between Nelson Mandela University, Basel University in Switzerland and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, aims to build on the earlier Disease, Activity and Schoolchildren’s Health Project (Dash), which at the time brought worrying findings to light about the state of local schoolchildren’s health.
Intestinal parasites, for instance, were found to be a widespread problem – and it is one which, if left untreated, could have a profoundly negative effect on a child’s future wellbeing.
Ironically, it is also a relatively simple affliction to treat.
It is, therefore, encouraging that the provincial health department, along with the education department, has thrown its weight behind the KaziBantu project.
Children in the city’s most disadvantaged communities are facing a daily health battle greatly affecting their current and long-term quality of life.
Sickly children often become sickly adults, and so the cycle – kick-started by poverty – inevitably continues.
Good nutrition and hygiene, basic healthcare and fitness are absolutely essential to make sure our children grow up into strong, healthy and productive adults – and education, unquestionably, is a key part of achieving that.
Fitness is an important component in the arsenal of tools a child will need down the line and yet, in many Bay schools, sports are not offered and there are zero facilities for physical education.
Exercise will not only help counter the obesity epidemic we have come to see in this country (and which frequently starts in childhood), but interacting with other youngsters on the sports field also teaches teamwork, leadership and relationship skills.
It is noteworthy that the programme also focuses on teachers’ health since these individuals are often role models, whether they choose to be or not, with the potential to wield a lasting influence on our children.