TRENDS It's not just history and geography anymore. With health manuals for schools, children are also educated about issues ranging from environmental sanitation to life skills
The books are colourful, with plenty of pictures. They come in a package of four manuals, aiming to address the physical and psychological health of children in school. Issues range from creating a safe school environment to stocking the school canteen with healthy bites. Volume I talks to stakeholders in school health and the other three list interesting activities built around Knowing your body, Food and nutrition, Personal hygiene, Environmental sanitation, Physical fitness, Being responsible and Behaviour and Life skills. Graded for classes I-XII, the books are lovely sugar-coated pills.
Last year, the manuals caught diabetologist Dr. Vijay Viswanathan's attention. Finding a lot of good in the CBSE-WHO books, he devised a school project to help schools implement activities recommended in the food/nutrition and physical activity chapters. For him and his hospital (MV Diabetes) this would be a workable route to reduce childhood obesity. “Eight CBSE schools accepted to take part in the Chennai Slim-and-Fit Programme, and their teachers attended the Training-for-Trainers event.”
Keep kids away from TV
His team of dietician-physiotherapist-psychologist discussed balanced diets, right choice of snacks, physical activities based on METs (Metabolic Equivalents), keeping kids away from TVs and computer games, positive behaviour changes, motivation for good habits, and how to carry out activities recommended in the books. Suma Padmanabhan, principal of a participating school said, “Our 10-year-old Health Club gets visits from WCC's Home Science students.” Health posters are common on school notice boards, stalls on healthy food are put up on annual days. The total success of the course depends on parents' co-operation, which means healthier food at home and in tiffin boxes.
The recent news about the fatal attack on a teacher has put behavioural issues in the arc-lights. “We minimise pressure by balancing academics with sports, organise talks by Chinmaya Mission, make value education part of the teaching.” School diaries carry only positive remarks, punishment is progressive. Kids know why they are scolded and feel well supported in school. “Experienced teachers handle higher classes and are alert to boy-girl interactions. Nearly 90 per cent of the kids are here from kindergarten to class XII, so they know their classmates well.” Rejection and failure are discussed. “Excursions, field trips and educational tours strengthen bonding between teachers and students. Cultural shows allow boys and girls to organise programmes and follow behaviour protocol. Student aggression and security measures are discussed at CCE and staff meetings.”
Parents' responsibility is shrinking, she observed. Why are schools forced to take on multiple roles? “When told the loner kid needs talking to, parents are surprised. We're also asked to keep kids well beyond school time. A teacher stays back, buys food, helps them call home. And why do parents let kids play video games full of violence? Why do some parents send their children to school unkempt?” “We started off the implementation by measuring the Body Mass Index of our children,” said another principal Ajeeth Prasath Jain. “Children were made aware of the accumulation of fat in the body, the need to reduce consumption of junk food. Officials from M.V. Diabetics Centre made a power point presentation about nutrition, balanced diet, and physical fitness. They told students how quality of food could be identified. As a follow-up of this presentation, we conducted activities and projects for classes I to VIII. They have started bringing vegetables and fruits for snacks. We conduct weekly yoga classes for 30 minutes,” he said.
Health and behavioural issues are related to stress, tiredness and hormonal changes, Dr. Vijay reiterated. “Teachers should be well informed about children's psychology and trained on handling adverse situations. Social well-being of growing children is the responsibility of parents, teachers and society. Each school should have a medical expert to identify abnormal behaviours early and manage them with counselling.”