Introduction of school health programme in Pakistan
Islamabad, Nov 4: At a time when the very future of our schools is so bleak, it appears almost crass to write about the need for introducing a school health programme in Pakistan. But, as pointed out by an observer, diseases take a heavier toll than bomb blasts. Hence they should not be ignored.
Besides we have been warned that the war we are engaged in will be of long duration. Life must then go on - as will the cycle of health and disease. And both - school safety and students' health - must be provided for.
Last week, a seminar in Karachi on the 'Impact of water and sanitation on health' would normally not have caught my attention, given that this issue has been talked about endlessly with no worthwhile result.
Nevertheless, hidden in the outpouring of words that such gatherings produce, was a one-line statement that came like a bolt from the blue.
One didn't expect it as learned experts were pontificating on the advantages of clean water and sanitation. Prof Rasheed Jooma, director general of health, who was the chief guest on the occasion, casually mentioned that the federal health ministry "might revitalise the school health programme".
One fervently hopes that it does. Dr Jooma would earn the gratitude of millions of parents if he translates his words into reality.
Few would recall that at one stage the government had introduced a health programme for school students. Needless to say it never got off to a good start and is now virtually dead. If the government thinks it worthwhile to revive this project, it certainly deserves to be commended and no delay should be brooked.
One hardly needs to emphasise the close link between health and education, something that is universally recognised. One reinforces the other. A child in good health can apply himself to his studies better. His school attendance record is good, and being alert and energetic the student can be expected to perform better academically. Besides, health education must start early in life to have an impact.
The ideal approach therefore is to link the two sectors where linkages are available. This could be done by introducing a strong school health programme, especially in public-sector institutions, which account for 87 per cent of primary-level enrolment in the country. Students in these schools have modest means and are often denied adequate healthcare.
The government would do well to look into some programmes that NGOs have adopted to give some health cover to their students. Some of them are doing very well.
Take the case of the Garage School in Neelum Colony, a low-income locality in Clifton, Karachi. Set up by Shabina in 1999 with a handful of children on its rolls, this school has expanded over the years. Today it has over 300 students. Shabina adopts an incremental approach. Initially she was providing rudimentary healthcare on an ad hoc basis. This has now been formalised and expanded to include students and their families as well.
Since February, Dr Aniqa Khan has been holding a clinic on the school premises thrice a week in the afternoon. The students of the school as well as their families receive coverage free of cost. This might even involve expensive surgery and hospitalisation which is provided through the network of health facilities and consultants which Dr Khan has created through personal contacts
The most recent beneficiary of this arrangement was Kainat, a five-year-old who suffered from a serious congenital heart problem. Three weeks ago, Kainat underwent delicate cardiac surgery at a leading hospital in Karachi. Funds were raised for the child as an appeal went round on the Internet with the hospital also providing concessionary rates.
When the school admits new children all of them undergo a medical check-up so that any serious condition can be detected - that is how Kainat's case came to light. Any child who feels unwell is encouraged to visit Dr Khan with his parents not just to obtain medicines but also to receive counselling on health awareness. The doctor has periodically arranged group discussions with the community on health, hygiene, lifestyle, diet and family planning.
The health clinic has begun to make an impact. Absenteeism in class has decreased and the health of the children has improved. Adopting the preventive approach, Shabina gets donors to pay for the vitamins, iron and calcium pills she hands to the children every morning, costing over Rs21,000 a month. When a donor is available, they also get fruit, eggs and milk to supplement their diet. Dr Aniqa Khan treats other families in Neelum Colony whose offspring are not attending the Garage School for a nominal fee.
It all appears to be so simple and doable. One hopes the health ministry will study this model and adopt it. Why should it be left only to the NGOs and other individuals committed to education and health to think outside the box? The government with its greater resources should be the one taking the initiative to introduce a programme of this kind. The Global Competitive Index places Pakistan at the lower rungs of health-related indicators. The recently announced National Education Policy speaks vaguely of providing health services and food in schools but one will have to see if the authorities are serious about it.
What is needed is a holistic approach to the child's education. He is a part of his family which lives in a community. Until an effort is made to reach out to them and integrate the classroom with the social environment, no education project can succeed.
If primary healthcare were to be integrated with education - schools can form the nucleus - it will be possible to reach out to the community. This will considerably reduce the load on tertiary healthcare institutions. -Zubeida
Educational institutions in Taxila closed again
Taxila: Administrators have closed all public-sector educational institutions inside the Taxila garrison for another week, but private schools outside the walled cantonment area opened Monday despite inadequate security arrangements.
The institutions were first closed on October 18 for a week and the closure period was later extended till November 1.
Three weeks of suspended educational activity would put extra burden on students, who would have less time to cover their syllabus in the current academic year.
Officials have announced that all the educational institutions, including the Heavy Industries Taxila Education City, would now reopen on November 9.
Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) Nisar Kazmi said a meeting of private schools' managements and law enforcement agencies was held, in which all institutions were asked to strengthen their security.
SDPO Kazmi said the Taxila administration had formed special teams to inspect the security arrangements and submit reports to the Punjab government. "If any institution failed to strengthen its security, it would be closed," he stressed.
Meanwhile, it was observed that most of the private-sector educational institutions located in Taxila cantonment had failed to meet security requirements set by the provincial government.
More than 60 per cent of the schools have boundary walls shorter than eight feet, the minimum height fixed by the provincial government.
The Punjab government has also directed the school managements to install CCTV cameras, barbed wires, walkthrough gates, metal detectors and scanners, besides deputing at least two armed guards at the main entrance.
However, school managements said they did not have the budget to meet the requirements.
"At least Rs200,000 are required to make these arrangements," said an office-bearer of the Private School Managements Association. "The government schools do not even have any boundary walls but they are allowed to operate. Only private schools are warned," he argued.
Criticising the lax security at schools, parents have asked the government to provide proper security to the educational institutions."We pay taxes and it is the government's responsibility to safeguard our lives."
They said they would not send their children to schools until the security measures were improved. Dawn
Medical week launched
Peshawar: The Peshawar Medical College Tuesday launched Medical Week from Tuesday to educate the medical students and faculty members on advancement in the field of health education.
Experts from the national and international medical colleges would deliver speeches and make presentations to highlight the medical research. A seasoned expert of medical education, Prof Dr Alam Sher Malik, would come from Malaysia to conduct a series of workshop. The first workshop on integrated curriculum began on Tuesday and will be followed by workshops on other topics of medical interest.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Principal PMC Prof Najibul Haq urged the students to follow good ethical practices along with professional expertise to treat the patients appropriately.
He said that people held medical professionals in high esteem due to their knowledge of diseases, diagnosis and treatment and it was the prime duty of doctors to provide the patients with the best possible treatment.
Prof Najib said that the PMC was making efforts to produce good and doctors with a view to pave the way for better treatment of the patients. The doctors needed to equip themselves with ethical values along with professional competence to win over the confidence of patients, he added. Faculty members of some public and private medical colleges were invited to the workshop with a view to replicate the movement for quality education in the entire province and facilitate the students.
Police deployed at schools
Peshawar: Policemen continued to keep a watch at schools in the district on Tuesday to ensure protection of the students.
Policemen were deployed at several schools in sensitive areas while cops also kept on patrolling other areas where educational institutions were located. It was observed that there were a large number of schools without any proper security.
Rumours made rounds in the city that educational institutions were being closed again as schools in Rawalpindi had been closed. But later that proved to be a mere rumour. The educational institutions across NWFP reopened on Monday after remaining closed for two weeks due to security concerns in view of recent rise in terror incidents.
Varsities experts start excavation in Chitral village
Mardan: Vice-Chancellor of Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU) Mardan, Prof Dr Ihsan Ali, has said three universities - AWKU, Hazara University and Leister University UK - had started excavation work in Sangoor village of Chitral district where human remains from Arians age have been founded.
He said researchers from the three universities had started excavation work at a site at Sangoor, situated at a height of 5,100 feet in Chitral. The vice-chancellor said that remains of graves from the Arians age were discovered, which varied in size and style. He said that Arians usually buried the dead in three forms, which were urn burial, cremated burial and inhuman burial.
He said in urn burial the relatives of the Arians first placed the body under the sky where the birds plucked and ate the flesh from the body and then they placed the bones of the body in an urn. "The urn used for this purpose was also engraved with human figures," he added.
He said in inhuman type burial the dead were buried as was being done today while the cremated burial were those in which the bodies were burned and then ashes placed in the graves. The vice-chancellor claimed that the remains recovered at Saboor village belonged to 1,800 BC to 600 BC, however, some remains also belonged to 7th AD to 1,000 AD. He said that earlier excavation at Aligrama, Thana, Timergara and Zareef Kuroona (Peshawar) also showed the remains of the type. He said that the remains of Arians were found up to Taxila in Punjab. The news
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