Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 March 2020:
The World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with other UN agencies is providing strategic technical assistance to the government of Sierra Leone for the formulation and implementation of a National School Health Policy and Strategy.
The new policy and strategy will create a safe, healthy school environment for learning, as well as improve social inclusion and sustainable human capital development.
Funded by the British Government through DFID, the policy formulation process is coordinated by an inter-ministerial core group, led by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.
The Sierra Leone School Health Policy will help to ensure a standardized approach to implementing and monitoring an agreed package of school health services that are provided by various organisations.
Development of the policy and strategy is said to be an important step towards extending universal health access to all school age children, by providing them with essential health services that are tailored to their needs, such as age appropriate information to protect health and promote wellbeing.
School health is directly linked to six and potentially all 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, including – health, education, reducing hunger, reducing poverty, gender equality, access to clean water and improved sanitation.
The Sierra Leone School Health Policy is being developed in line with the evolving WHO’s Global Standards for Health Promoting Schools, and will seek to address issues on policy, the physical environment, the social environment, health skills and education – including comprehensive sexuality education, and linkages with parents, communities, and the primary health care system.
The new policy will link to many of the existing policies and strategies, including the National Strategy for the Reduction of Adolescent and Child Marriages, and other instruments aimed at preventing the high rate of teenage pregnancy in the country.
Sierra Leone has a Free Quality Education Programme in place, which is accessible to all school age children. A high proportion of these children are enrolled in primary and secondary schools.
“When children are introduced to and adopt healthy behaviours at a very early age, it sets a strong foundation for their long-term health and development and it can be an opportunity for healthier lives and reduction of the burden of ill health on the society as a whole”, says Janet Kayita, Coordinator of the essential health services cluster at the WHO Country Office in Sierra Leone.
In December 2019, a situational analysis of school health in Sierra Leone was conducted under the stewardship of the Inter-ministerial Steering Group to better understand the barriers to improved health and educational outcomes, as well as map existing school health efforts by the government and development partners. Findings from that exercise will inform the development of the policy and strategy.