The Ministry of Education has launched a comprehensive health policy for schools as well as a strategic plan 2014-2018.
The policy is intended to create a healthy and conducive environment for students for better academic performance through maximising their learning capabilities.
It is within a framework to achieve education for all and improving all aspects of education.
The health policy includes recommended policy actions in eight key areas; health promotion, disease prevention and control, HIV/Aids and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sexual and reproductive health and rights, environmental health, nutrition, physical education and sports, mental health and related needs as well as gender and GBV issues.
“Healthy children will achieve better performance and become active members in promoting health for themselves, their families, their communities and their country as a whole,” Solange Mukayiranga, the director-general of education planning at the Ministry of Education (Mineduc), said.
“We want all development partners, district leaders and the communities, especially parents, to own the programme because it is beneficial to the students,” she added.
For the school feeding programme, Mukayiranga said, there were ongoing joint efforts between government and other partners to see how vulnerable families can be helped so that all students benefit.
Hugh Delaney, the in-charge of education at Unicef Rwanda, said various UN agencies were working on providing water and sanitation to schools, developing new curriculum and training teachers on things like health, HIV and sexual education, provision of soap and hand washing facilities to all schools and training District Education Officers (DEOs) and head teachers on hygiene.
Sanitation, infrastructure issues
A 2012 data from Education Management Information System (Emis) showed that clean tap water was present in 34 per cent and 45 per cent of primary schools and secondary schools, respectively.
The ratio of toilets per students was one per 75 in primary schools and one per 23 in secondary schools.
District officials commended the rollout of school health programme as it will address nutrition, infrastructure and all a student needs to be healthy and study well.
They said they were committed to ensuring sanitation and putting infrastructure in place but expressed concerns of lack of sufficient funding which affects availing enough infrastructures to all schools.
“We will put the requirements of this policy in Performance Contracts. For instance, we can be able to ensure sanitation issues, including teaching children how to wash, brush, and construct toilets,” said Emile Byiringiro, the vice-mayor in charge of social affairs in Nyamagabe District.
Byiringiro, however, noted that there were some activities like connecting electricity and water to every school that are beyond their means, hence needing help from top institutions.
“People are aware of the need for clean water, but there are inaccessible areas that make it difficult for water to be channeled there. It is an issue of concern to both the community and schools and the government is really concerned about it,” said Michel Mulindankiko, Karongi DEO.
The purpose of the school health strategic plan is to provide a detailed roadmap and framework for effective implementation of School Health Policy.
Development partners, ministries and agencies representatives, vice mayors in charge of social affairs and DEOs participated in the dissemination of the document.