Three School Health and Nutrition days are scheduled annually on the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) school calendar (in 2023, these are 3 March, 19 May and 22 September). They are intended to highlight the collaboration and linkages needed between the MoET and MoH as directed by Lesotho’s School Health and Nutrition Policy of 2018, because the promotion of the health of learners in schools is a critical step towards quality achievement in education.
On 3 March, to celebrate this relationship, a School Health and Nutrition Day was conducted by the MoET, in collaboration with Ministry of Health (MoH), and with the support of the FutureLife-Now! Programme. A total of 13 high schools in the Mafeteng district participated, where the FutureLife-Now! Programme is supporting schools.
The district education manager, Mahlompho Shaabe, delivered a word of appreciation, noting that she is indeed thankful to FutureLife-Now! for the support provided. It was her firm belief, she said, that learners would benefit from the health services to be provided that day.
The main purpose of holding the Mafeteng commemoration was to provide “one-stop-shop” health services for learners in both the FutureLife-Now! schools and those nearby. The day commenced with talks on the following topics: career guidance, substance abuse, unplanned and unintended pregnancy, gender-based violence, HIV&AIDS and psychosocial support. During his presentation on career guidance, the district medical officer, Dr Mpho Seleke, noted that the Mafeteng MoH has had discussions with the district administrator about bringing learners to hospitals to see for themselves the various career options open to them in the medical field. During her talk on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), Comprehensive Sexuality Education and HIV&AIDS, Mamotlatsi Tema, the Lesotho Housing Cooperation Health Centre nurse-in-charge, explained the SRH services that were being made available, including pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis and the so-called “morning-after pill”.
Following plenary presentations and discussions, learners were then able to access various health services, including eye screening, blood pressure and diabetes checking, self-HIV testing and COVID-19 vaccination.
Oral health screening was a particularly popular service, which was supported by the MoH national office, with the neighbouring district also lending a hand. Ruchiva Mapeta, the dental therapist doing the screening, was surprised at the high number who came for consultations: 173 learners and 16 adults. Of these, 32 (of which 30 were learners) were referred for further treatment at the local clinic or district hospital. All learners who were screened were provided with free toothbrushes, toothpaste and mouthwash.
Mafeteng Community Radio interviewed Itumeleng Ralefifi, the FutureLife-now! youth facilitator from Matholeng High School. She mentioned that the FutureLife-Now! programme had been running for four years (Phase 1), and that it will be scaled up to additional schools during its second phase in July 2023.
The School Health and Nutrition Day commemoration was officially closed by Mohloai Mohloai, an official from the District Administrator’s office, who thanked FutureLife-Now! for supporting the event in Mafeteng. It had proved to be of great benefit to the learners who had accessed the services on offer.