The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW) in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MoE) has launched a much needed initiative which has primary focus in the health and well being of school going children.
The initiative has been taken under the aegis of School Health Programme of Ayushman Bharat. The initiative does not only focus on physical health and well being but has a special focus on the emotional well being of children as well.
Amid the prevailing situation where in the valley has witnessed a rise in the suicide cases, the initiative which focus on emotional well being of children is the need of the hour.
To get the health programme implemented on the ground, the health department has decided to rope in the school teachers who will act as health ambassadors and act as the counselors of the school going children. Under the initiative, around two teachers per school will be trained to execute the health and wellness programme of the Government of India on ground.
The vision of the school health programme is that it envisions to equip, motivate and support children to actively contribute towards the development of self and society.
The programme has been aimed at to increase knowledge, inculcate positive attitudes and enhance life skills in order to promote informed, responsible and healthy behaviour among school going children. Notably, the school children in J&K have remained confined to the four walls of their houses for the last more than two years due to the prolonged closure of the educational institutions. The closure of educational institutions will definitely affect the emotional well being of the school children as they are in complete isolation with no interaction with their peer group. The student community is completely aloof from interpersonal communication.
In view of this, the H&FW department has roped in the National Council of Education Research and Trainings (NCERT) which has framed a training and resource module which will enable the health department to execute the programme on ground.
Notably, the training and resource material prepared by the NCERT is meant for teachers from upper primary to senior secondary stage as part of the school health component of Ayushman Bharat launched by the Prime Minister on 14 April of 2018.
This is a joint programme of the MoE and and MoH&FW to enhance the health and well-being of school going children. In order to achieve the objectives of the school health and wellness programme, a curriculum framework with focus on life skills enhancement with relevant themes, learning outcomes, content outline and a roadmap for implementing the initiative has been developed for all stages of school education beginning with pre-primary to senior secondary stages.
The present training and resource material has been developed for resource persons and teachers from upper primary to senior secondary stages.
Under the programme, the Government of India has a special focus on the Aspirational districts wherein training programmes for teachers have been started in order to train them for proper counseling of the students besides understating their psychology and taking care of their emotional wellness.
The question here is whether the training imparted to the teachers will reach the target audience or the training programmes and the modules will turn out to be mere an eyewash. The fact of the matter is that the students for whom the initiative has been taken are still confined to their homes and there seems to be no chances to get them back to schools and join their peer group which will automatically improve their r emotional wellness.
No doubt the health and education department are organizing training programmes but it will bear fruits only if it can influence the students and take them out of depression, mental anxiety and isolation.
The school health and wellness component was launched in April 2018 and is envisaged as an educational initiative that builds on experiences of children to enhance their health and support their holistic development to enable them to respond to real-life situations effectively.
It is also the matter of the fact that a school helps a child in its holistic development wherein he takes part in curricular as well as extra-curricular activities during the school hours which helps him/her to grow emotionally and physically as well. So, the closure of the schools may play a spoilsport in reaching the initiative of health and wellness to the target audience. Before executing the initiative, the government must think over resuming offline classes of school children which will help them in going back to social interactions.
The health and wellness programme is envisaged for all school going children from pre-primary to senior secondary. However, to begin with, it will be initiated from the upper primary stage (age 11 years onwards) and will be expanded to earlier years of schooling in a phased manner. Based on learning from implementing large scale life skill programmes, a growing understanding of developmental needs of school going children in the current context, the scope of the programme has been expanded to include several themes which vary from emotional wellbeing and mental health to interpersonal relationships and from nutrition, health and sanitation to promotion of healthy life styles.
The wellness programme initiative has a special focus on school health promotion activities, age appropriate learning for promotion of healthy behavior and prevention of various diseases besides other interventions for which the government of India has stated that the learning can be delivered through school teachers trained as health and wellness ambassadors in existing school spaces and forums such as assembly, PTA meetings and adolescent health days. But these days, there are no morning assemblies and no parent-teacher meetings held in schools which is another challenge to implement the wellness initiative on ground.
Now that the government of India has come up with a joint venture of the MoE and the MoH&FW for the health and wellness of the students, let us hope that the initiative does not remain confined to meeting and compilation of training modules but should be implemented on the ground and reach to the target audience. Taking this initiative to the school children is the real motive of the joint initiative of MoE and MoH&FW otherwise training and modules will not serve any purpose at all.