Over six million learners from Grade R to Grade Seven will receive vaccinations for soil-transmitted worms as part of the National School Deworming Programme.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga officially launched the programme at Zimasa Community School in Cape Town recently.
The programme is aimed at primary schools that are quintile one to three.
These schools are part of the Department of Basic Education’s National School Nutrition Programme and the intention is to ensure that learners in disadvantaged areas are healthy.
Infection by worms (soil-transmitted helminths) is widespread throughout the world and millions of people are affected by intestinal worms.
The worms live in the intestines and can cause serious illnesses such as long-term retardation of mental and physical development, reduced scholastic progress and malnutrition due to reduced appetite or poor food absorption. In very severe infections, it may even cause death.
The Minister urged parents to allow children to participate in the programme.
“The National School Deworming Programme is a voluntary exercise aimed at improving the well-being of our learners. I urge all parents and guardians to please sign the consent form and return it to schools.
“Let us all adopt healthy practices in our homes and classrooms across the country. It starts with a habit of hand washing with clean water and soap after every activity, especially before handling food or after visiting the bathroom.”
The aim of the programme is to improve children’s health, reduce health barriers to learning and assist learners to stay in school and receive quality education.
Minister Motshekga said that the launch of the deworming programme was part of the Integrated School Health Programme, which was approved by the Council of Education Ministers with a common goal of supporting learner wellbeing.
“We have adopted a three-pronged approach in accordance with the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO). These include: health education, which includes different types of worms, the way in which transmission takes place, prevention measures that can be taken and integrating hand washing education into the workbooks; regular deworming of children in schools; and the provision of adequate sanitation, safe water and the maintenance thereof to be provided to schools,” she added.
Minister Motshekga also extended her gratitude to all partners for their continued support in ensuring that all South African children receive quality education.
The programme will be implemented in partnership with the departments of Health and Social Development, Johnson & Johnson and the WHO.