Health Education in Nigerian schools should be given priority. This is because it helps school students learn skills they will use to make healthy choices throughout their lifetime.
How Important is Health Education in Nigerian Schools?
The following facts highlight the importance of health education in Nigerian schools:
- A lot of health challenges that occur later in life are caused by a lack of information on healthy living by both parents and students
- Preventable or treatable infectious diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles and HIV/AIDS account for more than 70 per cent of the estimated one million under-five (5) deaths in Nigeria
- Malnutrition is the underlying cause of morbidity and mortality of a significant proportion of children under-5 in Nigeria
- It accounts for more than 50 per cent of deaths of children in this age bracket
- Lack of proper and prior knowledge of a child about his or her health could subsequently lead to death
This article aims to discuss why it is crucial to start teaching health education in Nigerian schools. It also aims to highlight the appropriate age to start teaching it and the strategies that educators can employ when teaching health education in Nigerian schools.
Children are not too young to learn about their health and well-being; in fact, this is the right time for them to acquire such knowledge.
“Health education in Nigerian schools is essential and should not be held lightly”.
According to Healthychildren.org, health education promotes learning among students in subjects taught in schools. Health education emphasises the teaching of health information and vital skills necessary to adopt, practice, and maintain health-enhancing behaviours. Programs might include not only physical activity and proper nutrition; they can also include subjects such as stress management, drug use, and sexual conduct.
Studies have discovered that promoting and establishing healthy behaviours for younger people is very useful to their growth and development. As a result, it is crucial for teachers to be aware of the importance of discussing health topics with their students.
Health education motivates students to improve and maintain their health, prevent disease and reduce risky behaviour. It is essential for teachers to start teaching health education in Nigerian schools early on from preschool to elementary and then to secondary.
Most educational institutions should focus on teaching health education intensively and include it in their curriculum. It is crucial that health education is taught at all grade levels as children are more at risk of preventable diseases and infections.
The goal of teaching health education in Nigerian schools is to not only increase health knowledge and create a positive attitude towards well being, but also to promote healthy behaviours and lifestyle choices.
Ways in which teaching health education in Nigerian schools can improve health practices
There are several ways in which schools can improve health practices among students in schools. They can include teaching health education in their curriculum, promote healthy eating and physical activities in the classroom.
According to research by CDC, 17.7% of 6 to11-year-olds were obese in 2011 – 2012. From this data, it shows that most of what our young children are eating is not healthy, and as such, it is the responsibility of parents and the school to educate children on health.
Schools can create an environment that supports healthy eating and physical activity by employing policies and practices. Providing students with learning opportunities that promote a healthy diet and regular physical activity is also vital for students to learn and practice these behaviours.
For example, in our school, we recently stopped the consumption of carbonated drinks and lollipops in the school. This is because research has shown that the sugar content in these foods increases student hyperactivity and reduces their attention span.
We also run a robust physical and health education department which infuses sports and exercises into student learning.
According to SPARK author, John Ratey, MD “exercise should be thought of as medication”.
We know that exercise helps with executive functions like sequencing, memory, and prioritising which contribute to necessary skills for success in school and life. This is a major benefit.
Put simply, physical activity in school primes the brain for learning. Educators should involve all students from preschool to secondary in physical exercises as this is crucial for healthy development.
Why teachers find it hard to apply health education in Nigerian Schools
In research by Morgan and Hansen (2008) they identified two primary reasons why teachers find it hard to fully apply health education in schools. They are:
1. An institutional problem (Outside the teacher’s control)
2. Teacher-related (arising from the teacher’s behaviour)
Most of the institutional issues that affect the teaching of health education in Nigerian schools include budget constraints, scarce resources, reduction of time allocation in the curriculum, lack of professional expertise and the lack of facilities and equipment.
A lot of schools do not have the resources needed to teach physical education and healthy well-being. Due to this, students are not enlightened in health education, and this affects their behaviour growing up. It’s no surprise people’s eating habit is terrible, and their fitness level is zero.
As to teacher-related problems, some of the issues that affect the teaching of health education include lack of interest in teaching health education and lack of training, knowledge and expertise. A lot of teachers that take up teaching as a profession do not have a passion for it and many times they do it just to earn a living.
Furthermore, a qualified teacher may not accept a low paying job, even if he or she has a passion for teaching. This pushes some elementary schools into cutting corners, by hiring unqualified teachers that may not be suitable for the job. This ultimately affects the teaching of health education to students. Also, hiring a professional expert to educate students on well-being education might be very expensive.
What are the strategies schools can employ to teach health education in Nigerian schools?
First of all, it is essential for schools to train teachers in health education.
- Part of their training should include physical activities drill and lessons on eating clean and physical education
- Secondary schools need to implement policies and practices that respect students, teachers and parent’s well being
- They should acknowledge good efforts and intentions as well as personal achievements
- It is essential for schools not to think their responsibilities lie with just the students. Instead, they should also focus on the parents
- Another good strategy schools can employ is providing educational seminars for parents on issues of health and parenting
- Utilise positive role models. Schools can do this by getting role models that students look up to. Invite them to speak to the students on related health topics and tips in handling situations.
- Are the school policies promoting healthy living? Is the school cafeteria serving low-fat meals that support the excellent nutritional decisions encouraged by you and the teachers?
Is there an active physical education program that emphasises the value of fitness and offers each child thirty minutes of vigorous activity at least three times a week?
Does the school district support staff-wellness programs so that teachers can be actively involved in maintaining their health and thus be more excited about conveying health information to their students?
In summary, teaching health education in Nigerian schools is important for the continuous growth and development of healthy children.
In general, a child’s well-being as an adult is influenced by the lifelong exercise and nutrition habits that he or she adopts now.