School health programme only does ‘paper work’Sajia Afrin
School health programme aimed at providing primary medical treatment and health education to school children is in disarray and barely operational, according to a senior official of the directorate general of health services.
Since its inception in 1951, the coverage of school health programme has not expanded, beyond the 23 clinics attached with zilla schools of the old districts.
Health experts said that the government was not serious about the programme which barely reached any school children.
The programme was designed to provide a health service to school children and provide health education involving mainly preventive care and sanitation.
The programme was particularly supposed to provide care for eyes, ears, teeth and to detect malnutrition, they said.
Rashid-e-Mahbub, a former president of Bangladesh Medical Association, said school heath programme was also supposed help identify any congenital illness and detect early signs of disabilities and children could be referred to the hospitals if necessary.
Currently, only 55 doctors are responsible for the 23 school health clinics that exist across 20 old districts and three upazilas in the country, said directorate general of health services officials.
‘This can cover only 2 per cent of government primary schools and 6 per cent of government high schools,’ said the programme manager of Adolescent and School Health Programme, Ahmed Hossain Khan.
According to the education ministry, a total of 37,672 government primary schools and 317 high schools are operating in the country with over 94,83,000 primary level students and over 2,21,800 senior level students.
In addition, there are around 67,42,000 primary level students and around 71,77,000 high school level students enrolled in private schools.
‘Almost all these children are deprived of health care services from the programme, said Rashid-e-Mahbub.
The director general of directorate general of health services Khandaker M Shifayetullah also expressed his disappointment over the school health programme run by the DGHS.
‘I am very unhappy over the programme. It does not provide any significant service to the children,’ he said, adding that it only did some paper works.
Ahmed Hossain Khan, chief of the school health programme, said they only run some training programmes for the upazilla health and family planning officers so that they can train the teachers of the schools.
‘We did not provide any medical care to the students,’ he said.
Ahmed said the 23 school health clinics were directly supervised by the civil surgeons. ‘We do not supervise them.’
M Aman Ullah, medical officer of the programme, said that very few students came to seek treatment at the clinics. But now hospitals and doctors are available every where students were no longer interested to come to the clinics to seek treatment.
The head mistress of both Comilla Zilla School and Nawab Faizunnessa Government Girls’ High School told New Age that they had no idea when the doctors came to visit their schools.
‘I do not know when they come. I do not see them at my school,’ Rasheda Akhter, headmistress of Comilla Zilla School said. Two medical officers had however been posted at the school heath clinic near Comilla Zilla School.
Emphasising the importance of school health clinics, Rashid-e-Mahbub said that in the developed countries children’s health was regularly checked up through similar programmes. ‘Every child should be examined whether he or she had any kind of health problem before being admitted to school so that the problem could be treated at the early stage.’
Khandaker M Shifayetullah hoped that the government would extend the number of clinics so that more schools could be covered. ‘We will also take initiatives to strengthen the programme,’ he said
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