The driving force behind this project is the vision of “School Health Clubs” at all secondary government schools in Nepal. They consist of talented students from the upper classes, with three girls and three boys in each club, between the ages of 14 and 17. They receive an intensive five-day training regarding important health issues affecting them and their communities. Supervised by HEAR Nepal they pass their knowledge on to their fellow students, an hour a week for the rest of the school year.
Every week all the students thus learn about the importance of personal hygiene and sanitation, and they practice hand washing (WASH) on a regular basis. They learn of the necessity of having clean water and why they should not drink water from the rivers. They are told how to avoid worm infestation based on an understanding of the life cycle of the hookworm and other worms, what the causes of diarrhea and dysentery are and how to prevent them. The students gain knowledge about nutrition and the signs and symptoms of malnutrition, how it is treated, and how to avoid it through a balanced diet. They also learn about the functioning and causes of the most common communicable and non-communicable diseases, along with ways to prevent them and treat them if they do occur.
The students are taught first aid and what to do in case of accidents or fainting, how to stop bleeding and how to recognize heart attacks. All the health clubs receive a first aid box and are taught how to treat minor ailments.
They learn about menstruation and how the menstrual cycle works and that it is something good and natural and not sinful or dirty. The students gain an understanding about adolescent sexuality and reproductive health, about gender equity and equality, and about how to avoid getting HIV/Aids and other STD’s. They learn about the problems around early child marriage, the topic of abortion (which is free in Nepal), the dangers of illegal abortions and especially how to use condoms and other contraceptives. They learn about family planning and spacing children… The list goes on. They do this under the supervision of a HEAR Nepal health team, consisting of two trained nurses, two paramedics and two support staff, using flip charts with many illustrations, for children learn much faster through images than through the written word.
Together with supervisors from a HEAR Nepal health team, the School Health Clubs also bring their knowledge into the communities, teaching the parents and guardians of all the students about health issues during two-day seminars in every village or town every year. They thereby encourage structural changes within the communities, such as improved hygiene and sanitation and a greater focus on healthy nutrition.
The School Health Clubs undergo annual refresher courses and new health club members receive full training. Long-term members of the health clubs, who graduate from school, are encouraged to join the teaching staff of HEAR Nepal after having undergone further training.
Once such School Health Clubs have been established throughout Nepal, the level of knowledge and awareness of health issues and prevention will be greatly improved, both in the schools and the communities, bringing very substantial improvements to the health of the population.
Never before, neither in Nepal nor elsewhere, has the enthusiasm and the eagerness to learn of the youth of a nation been used so effectively on a large scale to improve the health of a nation. There is no doubt that this will ultimately be reflected in great health improvements in the population of Nepal, helping to fulfill Nepal’s sustainable development goals.