When it comes to health “it is better to prepare rather than repair” — this is something Colin L. Yarham firmly believes. And the belief is not without reason.
As someone who has worked in the area of school health programmes for several years, Mr. Yarham of non-governmental organisation Health Education and Promotion International, left his home in Australia over a decade ago to come to Tamil Nadu and work towards improving the health of school children.
He helped in the development of the Tamil Nadu Schools Total Health Programme, which subsequently was integrated with the State government syllabus. It was recently updated to include a host of aspects about every child's physical, mental and emotional well-being.
In 2003, a government order was issued, making it mandatory for schools to teach the Tamil Nadu Schools Total Health Programme as an examinable syllabus subject for two periods per week in classes I to XII.
In the syllabus prepared and now, updated by Mr.Yarham's team, a range of topics, from nutrition, environmental health and dangers of substance abuse, to social health, safety aspects and consumer health, have been covered in detail with suitable examples and illustrations.
“Children's health is vital in public health. While preparing the syllabus, we involved school heads, District Institute of Educational and Training (DIET) faculty, teachers and health workers. We thought it was important that the syllabus is written by people who will use it,” says Mr. Yarham.
He recently held discussions with officials of the State's School Education Department and the Ministry of Human Resource Development on how the revised syllabus could be included in schools effectively.
“Now, we are eager to have this comprehensive, updated programme implemented in schools. It has been designed in such a way that every child who is part of it feels ‘It is about me' and recognises its relevance and importance,” he says.
Emphasising that the new syllabus would involve not just students and teachers, but also family and community, Mr. Yarham says the programme is based on a child-centred, action-oriented teaching and learning methods. “Otherwise, one may not know when to start teaching about AIDS. How do you teach children to care for others? If we say we love children, we must be doing something about it,” he adds.