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Johannesburg - Schoolchildren in 10 pilot areas will get a comprehensive health plan, under the aegis of the National Health Insurance (NHI) plan.
The Integrated School Health Programme, which was launched by President Jacob Zuma in Cullinan, just outside Pretoria, yesterday, will allow pupils to access a variety of health services.
Each pupil will be assessed individually once in each phase by a school health team that will be led by a professional nurse.
I“About three-quarters of learners who become pregnant leave school at the time of the pregnancy and only between a third and a half of these return to school. It is almost always the girl child who has to deal with the stigma and other negative consequences of the pregnancy,” Zuma said.
“Equipping girls and boys with information on how to prevent unwanted pregnancies can play an important role in ensuring that all learners reach their full potential.
“We know that this subject makes parents uncomfortable, understandably so. But we have to face the reality that some learners are sexually active, no matter how much this knowledge troubles us as parents.
“To deal with this reality and promote primary health care, the school health nurse and team will provide sexual and reproductive health services including contraception as well as HIV counselling and testing, where appropriate,” he said.
Zuma, who was accompanied by officials from the national health and basic education departments and several health MECs, said the school health programme formed part of the NHI programme.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said mobile units for the pilot phase of the school health programme would be distributed to 10 districts where the NHI system was also being piloted.
“NHI is the re-engineering of primary health care – it focuses on preventive measures. Presently, our health system is a curative model, where we wait for people to get sick.”
“There are 12 million pupils. We can’t wait for them, in our wrong curative model, to get sick and only then take them to hospital. We want them to get the help in school,” said Motsoaledi.
The programme was welcomed by teacher unions and school governing body associations.
SA Democratic Teachers Union general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the union’s members would be available to offer “any form of assistance” to roll out the programme.
National Congress of School Governing Bodies secretary-general Nonokoane Hlobo said: “We are happy that this programme will cover the barriers to learning, information and counselling, on-site service provision, health promotion and environmental assessment of schools.”