Yet these problems can be easily diagnosed and treated if children have access to reliable health services.
The School Health Integrated Programming (SHIP) project began with a pilot in 2016, funded by the World Bank, to screen schoolchildren in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana and Senegal for health problems such as poor vision and worm infections. The pilot aimed to raise awareness, provide treatment and encourage governments to improve health and nutrition in schools: the goal was to reduce absenteeism and drop-out rates, and boost children’s educational prospects.
In November 2018, the SHIP project launched in Liberia, with funding from Dubai Cares, to run a three-year programme to train 2,400 teachers to screen children and distribute medication.
“School health is important for the development of children, and affects their ability to learn and succeed,” says World Bank senior director for education Claudia Costin. “Improving the health and nutritional status of school-age children has a significant impact on the timing of their enrollment, the frequency of their attendance, and their performance in school.”
As part of SHIP, teachers are taught about major eye conditions affecting their region, and trained to examine their students and record their findings. Children with vision problems are then referred to a team of mobile optometric technicians, who can travel to the school and provide free spectacles to children who need them.
Any children found to be suffering from or at risk of worm infections are treated with deworming medication. The teachers are also trained to educate their students about eye health and personal hygiene, with the children encouraged to share what they learn with their families.
The pilot project in 2016 ran in partnership by Sightsavers, the World Bank, Imperial College London’s Partnership for Child Development and the Global Partnership for Education. The Liberia project launched in 2018 in partnership with the ministry of health and ministry of education, and funded by the Dubai Cares foundation.