Jul 2017 2nd Edition

War on germs at schools

Written by Charity Khosa
A public-private partnership between the national Department of Education and Unilever aims to teach healthy hygiene habits to South African learners.

School children across the country are being encouraged to adopt healthy and hygienic habits.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE), in partnership with Unilever, officially launched the Unilever National Schools Hygiene and Sanitation Programme at Skeen Primary School in Alexandra recently.

The signing of a memorandum of understanding cemented a five-year partnership between the department and Unilever that will promote improved hygiene and sanitation habits in schools.

It encourages learners to wash their hands before eating, brush their teeth daily and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

The programme involves a 21-day in-class behavioural change campaign, the Proven 21-day Behaviour Change Model, as well as the provision of soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes to 15 000 public primary schools in all nine provinces from September 2017. Products will be provided by Domestos, Mentadent and Lifebuoy.

The programme is further aimed at decreasing preventable infections in learners, thereby improving school attendance.

Lifebuoy has already taught over two million children in 4 000 schools about the importance of handwashing with soap, with its School of Five programme, while the Domestos Germ Busters Club programme and Cleaner Toilets Brighter Future campaign have reached over 400 000 children in 475 South African schools.

Oral hygiene brand Mentadent will build on the success of these education programmes by teaching children the importance of brushing their teeth twice daily to prevent oral decay.

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said this programme was important as it teaches healthy hygiene habits.

“Children who are healthy can attend school more regularly and participate actively in everyday learning activities at school. Washing your hands regularly with soap is recognised as a cost-effective, essential tool for achieving good health,” the Minister said.

Seula Mmako Primary School in Khureng Village in Limpopo, one of the participating schools, has reported that its learners have embraced the programme. Parents are so impressed that they promised to continuously support the habits that their children learned through the programme.

Paul Polman, the Global Chief Executive Officer of Unilever, said the programme is designed to help youngsters stay healthy and obtain a better education by avoiding the kinds of preventable infections that often mean they miss school.

“It’s great to see this partnership being implemented nationally, with the DBE, after our successful pilot in 31 schools last year. Unilever is strongly committed to such partnerships with our portfolio of sustainable living brands to help build a brighter future for all South Africans.”  

Charity Khosa works in the Communications Unit within the Department of Basic Education.

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