School Health Programmes in Nigeria; An Overview

The school health programme (SHP) is a health programme created in order to meet the health needs of pupils and students with the support of the government.

 It is comprised of projects and activities in a school environment for the protection and promotion of the growth and development of school pupils in the community. 

School Health Programmes in Nigeria

The school health programme aims at achieving a sustained and rapid improvement of the health of school children. This is to ensure that children from preschool age to adolescence are as healthy as possible so they can be in the right position to receive teachings and also attain their maximum physical and intellectual potentials. School Health Programme seeks to provide the right learning environment as regards to the health of the child and the physical environment so as to make it conducive for learning. 

History of School Health Programme in Nigeria

During the colonial period, school health was low, there were, in fact, no school facilities. In the 19th century, the British Empire then decided to implement western education in Nigeria. In Nigeria, primary education began in 1842, secondary education in 1859 with the first Grammar School in Lagos. However, the sanitary conditions for pupils were low.

The Preschool Program for Toddlers comprises of various components which include:

School health services: Health services are supervised and provided by the school through nurses at the school clinics to protect and ensure the health of students. This service includes assessment, planning, coordination of direct care for all pupils, including those with special health care needs.

Health Education and Promotion: The curriculum for health education and program include personal health, family living, nutrition, injury prevention and safety. Health education services are provided by qualified professionals such as teachers, dieticians, counsellors, health educators.

Nutrition services: The school is expected to provide a variety of nutrition through affordable meals to ensure the health and nutritional requirements of the students are met.

Healthy school environment and sanitation: This has to do with the cleanliness and quality of the physical surroundings of the pupil; safety and emergency plans, precautionary plans, climate, culture of the school and periodic review of factors and conditions that affect the quality of the physical environment in the school such as the school building and all area that surrounds it, playing facilities, infrastructure and facilities, transportation facilities, safety hazards, air quality, noise, temperature and all other factors that might be detrimental to the health of the students. 

Physical Education: Physical education aims at providing appropriate, cognitive content and learning experiences in a variety of physical activity that will develop the child. These include basic movement skills; physical fitness; rhythm and dance; cooperative games; team, tumbling and gymnastics; and aquatics. Good physical education promotes the physical, mental, emotional and social development of a child.

Counselling, mental health, and social services: These are provided to assess and improve the mental, emotional, and social health of every student. These services are provided via developmental classroom guidance activities or other preventive educational programs such as individual and group counselling sections, mental health needs family or home consultation. The professional skills of counsellors, psychologists and social workers, social health nurses are utilized to achieve a sound counselling and contribute to the mental, emotional and social health of the students, their families and the entire school environment.

According to the World Health Organization, Nigeria has created its National School Health Programme. In Nigeria, the school health programme provides the whole health structure for educational institutions. This follows the recommendations of the World Health Organization. This was defined at the World Education forum in April 2000 at Dakar. A strategy was also put in place to ensure the effectiveness of the programme in all countries of the world. This was called “The focusing Resources on Effective School health.”

 This strategy also promotes four main components of any National School Health programs, which are School-based Nutrition, Environment and water sanitation, School health policies, School-based health services.

Other organizations that define the regulations of the School health programmes include The World Bank, UNESCO, UNICEF, The Education Development Centre and Partnership for Child Development.

Importance of School Health Services 

  •   To provide emergency care for illness or injury while still in school
  •   To ensure that all students get appropriate referrals to health care providers
  •   To monitor for and control the spread of communicable disease
  •   To provide education and counselling in a variety of health and wellness topics
  •   To serve as a medical resource in the development of policies and procedures in the school
  •   To improve the health of learners and teaching staff

In order to achieve all these, strategies are put in place such as:

Building the health skills of students and teaching staff in the school community

Promoting the collaboration between schools and health-related organizations

Ensuring the maximum use of various health-related facilities in the school environment

Rate and develop a health consciousness of the school pupil

Ensure the household of pupils are involved in the health care of pupils

Other recommendations of the World Health Organization include:

  • Location: A school must be located in a safe area, away from business, pollution and noise such as is found in a factory, market place, airport, public motor parks or any other source of industrial or machinery noise.
  • Every school must have a gate and be fenced
  • Every school must have a functioning drainage facility and a well-developed wastewater management
  • The required standard for a school facility is one hectare of land for 500 students
  • Environmental sanitation: All schools must be responsible for the cleanliness of their own classrooms, toilets and food stores.
  • All schools must be responsible for the safety and well being of their students as regards furniture and road. Measures must also be put in place to ensure safety for the students.

Factors influencing the implementation of school health services

In Nigeria, public schools are reportedly lacking in infrastructures, funds and adequate health personnel. The state of school health education in Nigeria is quite depressing and schools are still expected to implement these health programmes themselves.

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