Incorporate health education in school curriculum
There is no doubt that Covid-19 has now become the world’s most challenging political and socio-economic crisis since the second World War.
In Kenya, it has sent the country to one of its lowest point in our five-decade post-independent history.
As we intensify our efforts to consign the coronavirus into the dustbins of history, new questions have emerged as to how prepared we are as a country if such a calamity was to recur in years to come.
Since Kenya made it to the unfortunate list of countries with confirmed Covid-19 cases, the government through President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ministry of Health and other public agencies have led from the front to implore Kenyans to observe a set of preventive measures to keep the virus at bay.
Our media spaces and platforms have been awash with public service announcements with simple and clear content: that the best way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 which has claimed more than 150,000 lives and affected over two million people around the world, is to maintain very high standards of hygiene—wash your hands with soap; cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Maintaining social distance and staying home have also been cited as critical in fighting the virus.
As this public education drive continues, we need to ask ourselves how we can make it more sustainable so that public hygiene becomes part of our national culture and ethos.
When one takes a look at our laws, health occupies a very central position. Article 43 of the Constitution states that every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health.
To reinforce this, the Health ministry augments this with a mission to build a progressive, responsive and sustainable healthcare system for accelerated attainment of high standard of health for all.
In sync with this, affordable healthcare for all Kenyans is one of the cardinal goals of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four agenda.
The sum and substance of these provisions is that at face value, the ordinary Kenyan is well covered as far as access to affordable healthcare is concerned but where does that leave health education for our people?
Recently, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe complained that Kenyans are not observing preventive measures.
As the country grapples with this crisis, it is important to observe that our collective national culture and behaviour as Kenyans is majorly to blame for what we are seeing.
Even if government agencies intensify their policing round the clock to ensure public compliance to Covid-19 preventive measures, we are still likely to behave badly unless we change our culture.
I believe one way of confronting this challenge is to start offering mandatory health education lessons in all our schools and tertiary institutions to inculcate a culture of personal and public hygiene in the youth.
Looking at the age distribution of those affected in the country, it is evident that the coronavirus is affecting the more productive members of our society.
This means that we need to start empowering our young people with modern health education tips to help them fight not just Covd-19 but also any future pandemics that may come our way.
There is no better avenue of doing this than in our institutions even as we introduce the competency-based curriculum in our school system.
I urge all relevant actors to urgently begin a countrywide engagement to design health education modules for all our learners in our schools to prepare the country for future public health challenges.
As the present generation of leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure our children are equipped with the right health education tools to be able to survive and thrive in tomorrow’s economy.
A wise man once said that if you want to plan for one year, plant a seed; if you want to plan for five to ten years, plant a seedling; but if you want to plan for fifty to a hundred years, teach the people!
Let us prioritise health education for our children as we prepare them to drive our country’s future growth. —The writer is director general, Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority. [email protected]