Making school environment healthy and conducive for learning in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has commenced the process of developing a National School Health Policy and Strategy to create a safe healthy school environment for learning with the aim to improve social inclusion and sustainable human capital development. The process is being coordinated by an interministerial core group led by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. The World Health Organization in collaboration with other United Nations agencies are providing strategic technical assistance to the government for the development of these national documents with funding from the British Government through DFID.

Once finalized the policy will help to ensure a standardized approach to implementing and monitoring an agreed package of school health services that are provided by multisectoral stakeholders.

Development of the policy and strategy is an important step towards extending universal health coverage to school age children by providing them essential health services that are tailored to their needs such as age appropriate information to protect health and promote wellbeing as well as increased access to child and adolescent friendly health services.

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 clean water and sanitation. The Sierra Leone school health policy is being developed in line with the evolving World Health Organization (WHO) 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 policy links to many existing policies and strategies including the national strategy for the Reduction of Adolescent and Child Marriage and other instruments to prevent the high rate of teenage pregnancy

Sierra Leone has a free quality education policy for all school age children and a high proportion of its school age 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 in 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 Interministerial Steering Group to better understand the barriers to improved health and educational outcomes and map existing school health efforts by the government and development partners. Findings from that exercise will inform the development of the policy and strategy.

Source: World Health Organization. Africa