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Government officials from ministries of education and health from 20 countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa met from 18 and 19 June 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa to review the East and Southern Africa (ESA) Commitment progress. The meeting brought together core members of the technical coordinating group, select civil society organisations (CSO) at country and regional levels, United Nations, SADC PF, and development partners.

The Technical Coordinating Group (TCG), under the leadership of UNESCO and UNFPA, with support from UNAIDS, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC) Secretariats, plays a key role in the management of the ESA Commitment process and the implementation of the accountability mechanism. Each year, a TCG face-to-face meeting is held to discuss implementation and progress towards ESA Commitment targets.

Speaking at the meeting, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen, and his UNFPA counterpart for Eastern and Southern Africa Region, Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, applauded governments for their commitment, and called on the stakeholders to begin looking at post 2020 plans when the Commitment is meant to expire. They emphasised the need to accelerate efforts in providing CSE, and access to SRHR services for adolescents and young people.

This year’s TCG meeting focused on dialogue, debates and interactions, particularly on sharing the ‘how’ of HIV and Health Education and youth friendly health services provision. It highlighted tangible regional and national actions needed in the spirt of the Step Up and Deliver 2020 Roadmap. Moreover, in 2017, the TCG commissioned the CSO Platform to produce a regional report on the implementation of the ESA Commitment, looking at issues of accountability, coordination, resources, and youth leadership. The report formed the framework for discussion at the TCG. The meeting also agreed on the roll-out of the proposed early and unintended pregnancy campaign resulting from a situational analysis, which was commissioned in 2017.

Zimbabwe launched its School Health Policy on 11th June 2018 in Harare as a strategic means to promote positive health determinants while preventing and mitigating health risks among learners.

Jointly developed by the Ministries of Health and Child Care and Primary and Secondary Education, the policy has the vision of “A primary and secondary education system with an enabling environment for the provision of equitable, sustainable and quality health services for all learners.”

Key components of the policy include:

  • Competency based health education
  • Psychosocial support services
  • Safe and sanitary school environment
  • Disaster risk management
  • School based health and nutrition services
  • School – family – community health linkage services
  • Support facilities and services for learners with special needs; and
  • Health promotion for school staff

The launch which was held under the theme, “Ensuring a healthy mind in a healthy body’, was attended by the Ministers of Health and Child Care, and Primary and Secondary Education, other senior Government Officials, members of the UN family, teachers, healthy professionals, development partners and civil society representatives.

Speaking at the launch, the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Prof. Paul Mavima, said he was pleased that the policy was finally being launched after a long period of consultations with parents, learners and stakeholders in both the education and health sectors.

“The policy provides mechanisms to coordinate a systematic approach to addressing health issues for learners in our schools,” he said.

In his remarks, the Minister of Health and Child Care, David Parirenyatwa said, “a comprehensive school health programme denotes a set of policies, procedures and activities set to protect, promote and support the health and welfare of pupils and staff which include the provision of health services, healthy school environment, life skills, health education and school nutrition”.

Speaking on behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Bishow Parajuli, WFP Representative, Mr Eddie Rowe, said since the majority of adolescents and young people in Zimbabwe spend the most of their time in school, implementing a robust school health programme increases the reach of health promotion interventions in this age group.

“HIV remains a significant public health concern in Zimbabwe especially among adolescents and youths, therefore, the School Health Program provides an opportunity for us to step up HIV prevention efforts among young people, and to promote adherence for those young people who are already on treatment,” he said.

The report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training (1999) recommended the development of a school health policy. The development of the policy can be traced back to 2004. The impetus to finalise the policy was provided after the coming in of the Zimbabwe Curriculum Framework, 2015-2022, which acknowledges that healthy and happy learners learn better, while poor health can have a detrimental effect on school attendance and academic performance.

UN agencies in Zimbabwe including UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO and WFP supported the development of the policy. The Policy is seen as a bridge to engage the education sector in efforts to positively influence the educational, social and economic conditions that affect health. In addition, ensuring that a school-going-age population is healthy is key for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For more information, please contact: l.halimani@unesco.org