By Michael Oriedo
Schools that promote a healthy learning environment improve pupils’ academic performances, researchers say.
The researchers say teachers in schools that adhere to the National School Health Policy and other initiatives that promote a clean and healthy learning environment frequently engage students in discussions about health and ensure they access clean water and sanitation facilities.
Consequently, this promotes teaching and learning, increasing pupils’ chances of doing well in their studies.
The researchers from the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC) worked with 22 primary schools (11 as the control group) in two informal settlements in Nairobi under an initiative dubbed Health Promoting Schools.
The team helped the schools used as intervention group develop health policies, come up with health coordinators and health committees comprising of teacher, students and parents.
Then they trained teachers on health education, leadership, hygiene and life skills.
They also improved water access by introducing water tanks, providing water points and liquid soap in the schools. With the help of teachers, they wrote health messages and posted them in places students can access easily.
In schools that served as control groups, little or no change was observed in health promoting activities like hand washing, which help prevent communicable diseases in school settings.
Conversely, in the intervention schools, pupils valued hand washing as an important health practice. "When we started, the number of children who washed hands frequently was about six per cent, this increased to over 80 per cent in the ten months that we carried the intervention," says Osnat Keidar, the lead researcher.
She says pupils who study in schools that for instance provide water and soap, are more likely to wash hands than those in schools that do not have the facilities.