Department of basic education and Unilever launch a programme to teach schoolchildren the importance of basic hygiene practices
the Teacher reporter
Adopting basic hygiene practices can prevent many diseases that contribute to high child mortality rates in South Africa and other parts of the continent. For instance, cholera and diarrhoea, which hit young children the hardest, are caused by poor hygiene conditions in which bacteria thrive.
This is what motivated Unilever to partner with the department of basic education (DoBE) to launch a National Schools Hygiene Programme. The partnership was sealed on Monday with the signing of a five-year Memorandum of Understanding at Skeen Primary School in Alexandra. As part of the collaboration, the Unilever National Schools Hygiene and Sanitation Programme will provide hygiene education to every grade learner across the country. This forms part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan initiative, which aims to help more than one billion people improve their health and wellbeing by 2020.
The school-based hygiene programme will be integrated into the curriculum and will kick off in September 2017 at 15 000 public primary schools across the country. Unilever will provide its products such as Lifebuoy, Domestos and Mentadent to enable learners to adopt healthy living and hygiene habits. Teachers will also obtain the necessary assistance to ensure the programme is successfully implemented in class.
At the signing, schoolchildren equipped with branded liquid soap, paper towels and a water basin were posted strategically near the catering area, reminding guests to wash their hands before they ate. Others impressed with engaging presentations based around the theme of basic hygiene on a makeshift stage.
To date Lifebuoy has reached over two million children in 4 000 schools, teaching them about the importance of washing their hands with soap. Similarly, through the Domestos’ Germ Busters Club Programme and Cleaner Toilet Brighter Future campaign, the global consumer brand has touched over 400 000 children in 475 South African schools.
Said Unilver’s global chief executive, Paul Polman: “It’s great to see this partnership going countrywide with the [DoBE] and with our portfolio of sustainable living brands after our successful pilot in 31 schools last year. Unilever is strongly committed to working with others to help build a brighter future for all South Africans”.
He added that the programme is designed to help the kids stay healthy and receive better education by avoiding preventable infections that in some instances lead to them missing school.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga was also excited about the initiative. She said the programme is vital as it inculcates healthy and hygienic habits in the learners. “Children who are healthy can attend school more regularly and participate actively in everyday learning activities at school,” said Motshekga.
She said that washing one’s hands with soap is one of the most widely recognised and cost-effective ways of achieving good health. “I am very pleased that we are able to partner with Unilever on this essential project,” concluded the minister.