From Awareness Times Newspaper in
Helen Keller International sponsors a School De-Worming Campaign in Sierra Leone
Nov 8, 2011, 17:02
Helen Keller International
352 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10010
The Ministry of Education Science and Technology (MEST) with technical support from Helen Keller International (HKI) successfully implemented a school based de-worming campaign in eight districts of Sierra Leone in June 2011. Funding for this exercise was provided by the Education For All-Fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI) Project of the Ministry of Education Science and Technology. This shows a remarkable commitment on the part of the Ministry towards Sierra Leone’s millennium development goal of universal primary education.
Our international partners have realised that support for the building or rehabilitation of primary schools, school furniture, the training of primary school teachers, the provision of core curriculum text books and learning materials is only part of that required to achieve true access to primary education. It is also essential to ensure that children attending primary schools are in good health, well nourished and mentally alert in order for them to be receptive to education during these critical years. Evidence has shown that routine de-worming of school aged children is the one of the most cost-effective, proven health intervention that a developing country can implement.
To this effect, the World Health Assembly encourages governments to ensure that a minimum of 75% of school aged children are routinely de-wormed and that this target should be achieved by 2010. The achievement of this milestone by the Government of Sierra Leone, through the successful implementation of this school based programme was acknowledged worldwide by the World Health Organisation.
This year, MEST has scaled up its contribution and capacity to school based de-worming and implemented the program in eight districts with funds from the Education For All-Fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI) Project of the Ministry.
In all these eight districts: Kambia, Port Loko, Moyamba, Pujehun, Bonthe and parts of Bombali, Bo and Tonkolili, the Deputy Directors of Education held stakeholders meetings with councillors, traditional and religious and civil society groups to explain the programme and worm-control overall: personal and community hygiene. The Deputy Directors of Education also coordinated and trained zonal supervisors who in turn trained all head teachers in the targeted locations: a total of 85 chiefdoms. These head teachers returned to their communities and held community teachers association meetings to explain to parents not only the deworming programme but the other important pillars of worm control, good personal and community hygiene such as hand washing with soap and water, the use of latrines and safe drinking water. On the 21st June 2011, a total of 2,498 head teachers trained in the implementation of the de-worming programme successfully treated 547,637 primary school aged children with the drug mebendazole.
The Ministry of Education Science and Technology’s commitment to de-worming of children will improve children’s health, school attendance, ability to concentrate and their educational achievement, thus helping them reach their full adult potential to improve their contribution to national development.
We would like to congratulate the Ministry for adopting this innovation and for the increased capacity it demonstrated in 2011 at national and district level. There is great potential for the Ministry to be able to perform this worthwhile, cost-effective, proven intervention for all the school aged children in Sierra Leone by scaling up to all 13 districts in May/June 2012.
Dr. Mary Hodges,
Helen Keller International – Sierra Leon
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