Over 600 million learners worldwide are infected with parasitic worms. In South Africa, studies report 40-90% prevalence rates amongst learners .These infections harm their health and development, and can negatively impact on educational and economic achievement both in the short- and long-terms .
Infection by worms (soil-transmitted helminths) is widespread throughout the world and millions of people are affected by intestinal worms. The worms live in the intestines and can cause serious illnesses such as long-term retardation of mental and physical development, reduced scholastic progress and malnutrition due to reduced appetite or poor food absorption. In very severe infections, it may even cause death.
In South Africa, soil-transmitted helminths (STH) infection is most prevalent amongst disadvantaged children who live in densely-populated and under-serviced areas such as informal settlements. High levels of infection have been documented amongst children in all provinces, including KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, the Western Cape and Gauteng.
The World Health Organisation recommends that school children be dewormed as they are mostly infected with the worms. Through schools, large numbers of learners can· be reached. Deworming will also contribute to improved health and educational achievement.
It is with this in mind that government, through the Departments of Basic Education and Health, decided to introduce the Deworming Programme. The programme is aimed at improving quality education through the Integrated School Health Programme (ISHP) to prevent Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH) in learners.
The Programme will reach over 6 million learners from Grade R to 7 who are in quintile 1-3 primary schools. These are schools that are part of the DBE’s National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) and is intended to further deepen the gains of this most successful and lauded pro-poor programme.
The aim of the Programme is to improve children’s health, reduce health barriers to learning and assist learners to stay in school and to receive quality education. The Programme further intends to promote attitudes and behaviours that will positively impact on the current and future health of learners.
Parents and guardians are encouraged to sign the consent forms as your children may not receive the Vermox tablets without your consent. Educators will give the tablets to learners under the supervision of a professional nurse.
For more information you can talk to the principal, the school health team, the clinic sister or visit the websites of the Departments of Basic Education (www.education.gov.za) and of Health (www.doh.gov.za).