Schools a primary health priority

2015-07-30 06:00

Education and health MECs Debbie Schäfer and Nomafrench Mbombo visited Mpendulo Primary school in Makhaza, Khayelitsha to observe the Wellness Mobile Clinic. 

Mandla Mahashe

Education and health MECs Debbie Schäfer and Nomafrench Mbombo visited Mpendulo Primary school in Makhaza, Khayelitsha to observe the Wellness Mobile Clinic. PHOTO: Mandla Mahashe

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A project by the Western Cape Government is set to kill two birds with one stone.

The Wellness Mobile Clinic is a project in collaboration with the private sector which offers eye and dental screening as well as immunization for learners at primary schools in the province.

This flagship project of the Western Cape Government was rolled out in 2014 as a transversal strategy by the Departments of Health and Education. The project was the first in which the two departments are collaborating to advance the Integrated School Health Programme.

On Tuesday, education MEC Debbie Schäfer and health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo visited Mpendulo Primary school in Makhaza, Khayelitsha in an attempt to ensure that communities are aware of the services that are available to Grades R and one learners.

Pheliswa Busika, Mpendulo Primary principal, said that the project has helped the school address two major problems; learner health and absenteeism.

“Many of the parents work at jobs where if they are absent they don’t get paid, so by having these health checks conducted at our schools on the same day we have saved them so much time. The initiative also helps in identifying problems at an earlier stage as well,” she said.

She said that she was also happy that the learners underwent immunisation as many parents do not understand its importance.

“Sometimes when the child misses immunizations the parents don’t pay much attention to it as they don’t grasp the importance of immunizations and the ramifications of not undergoing it,” she said. She also said that she wished that the clinic could visit the schools at least once a month.

The project has been running since last year and has conducted more than 4000 screenings. The mobile unit is a bus that visits various schools in the province to conduct these screenings.

Each Wellness Mobile for School Health includes a consultation room where general health screening can be performed, a dental unit section for screening for oral health and rendering of dental and oral hygiene services and an optometry unit, for the testing of eyesight in order to provide learners with spectacles if needed.

“The Western Cape Government is committed to providing quality health care services to the entire population in the Western Cape. The focus is on prevention and promotion of wellness rather than the curative. This project is playing such a key role in particularly poor and rural areas, screening learners for conditions that require the necessary intervention” said Mbombo.

The total number of schools served by the mobiles since the start of the service is 318.

The total number of learners who benefitted from the different components of the service amounts to 29 423.

“We are really excited about being able to bring health care to schools using state of the art technology. We have discovered that there are a number of children who have simple health problems, such as bad eyesight, that are often left undetected and which negatively affect their schoolwork.

It is a tragedy if the reason people cannot read is not because they do not have the ability, but because they cannot see properly. The reasons that these issues are not detected often relate to the fact that the parents are not able to afford screening such as this. The mobile clinics have already made a huge contribution in addressing this problem” said Schäfer

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