Education needed on sun protection - study

2013-09-02 15:26
Sun. (File)

Sun. (File) (Shutterstock)

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Johannesburg - About 79% of schools do not keep classrooms open during lunch breaks for pupils to sit indoors, according to a study by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

"This was due to safety and security concerns," the CSIR said in a statement on Monday.

The SunSmart schools research study, which was carried out at 24 schools across the country, found that more than a third of pupils never used sunscreen when they were out in the sun.

"While two-thirds of schools encouraged sunscreen use by learners when outdoors, more than 90% did not provide sunscreen due to its cost," it said.

"Only nine schools indicated that they have sufficient seating in the shade for all learners during breaks. One school had carried out a shade audit and maintained a shade inventory."

Due to financial constraints, only a quarter of schools had plans to erect shade structures, while 70% had future plans to plant trees.

None of the schools had a "no hat, no play" or a "no hat, play in the shade" rule.

It found that only three schools required pupils to wear sun-protection hats when outdoors and exposed to the sun in the first and fourth school terms - summer time.

More than 58% of the schools said they encouraged pupils to avoid excess sun exposure during breaks in the first and fourth school terms.

School policy

The research was co-funded by the Cancer Association of SA (Cansa) and the SA Medical Research Council. School managers and 707 pupils completed questionnaires to assess school policy and sun-related knowledge.

"Researchers know that substantial sun-induced skin damage occurs before the age of 18, which makes sun protection crucial for children," the CSIR said.

CSIR principal researcher Caradee Wright, who led the study, said children either did not know how to protect themselves against sunburn, or did not place sufficient value on their health.

Fifty-five percent of pupils said they were not taught in the past year about sun protection.

"Twenty-two percent said that they had had one lesson or a part of a lesson about sun protection," the CSIR said.

Cansa head of advocacy Joel Perry, said the report provided evidence that schools could make a significant contribution to child awareness of sun protection.

"However, it has also shown that limited resources in public schools need to be addressed."

Read more on:    csir  |  cansa  |  weather  |  education

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