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The success of the study Disease, Activity and Schoolchildren’s Health (DASH), a partnership between the University of Basel, Nelson Mandela University and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute has led to the launch of a follow up project Healthy Schools for Healthy Communities – the KaziBantu  project, funded by the Novartis Foundation. 

KaziBantu – Active People (Kazi - Swahili word for “active” and Bantu – Xhosa word for people).

DASH investigated the health and wellbeing of approximately 1000 children in eight disadvantaged primary schools, with a particular focus on the link between physical activity, infectious diseases, cognition and cardiovascular risk factors. This study was the first of its kind for African children. The results showed that soil-transmitted helminths and low physical fitness seem to hinder children’s capacity to perform well at school. Furthermore the study provided evidence that improvements in children’s nutrition and physical activity not only contributes to their cognitive performance in school, but can also contribute to a reduction of overall cardiovascular risk factors. Physical activity was also found to correlate with health-related quality of life.

At the DASH Symposium on October 11th, Nelson Mandela University, together with their partners launched the KaziBantu Project – or Healthy Schools for Healthy Communities. The initiative aims to address poor health in disadvantaged schools in South Africa and is the first Novartis Foundation program to include the education sector, bringing new opportunities for achieving impact. The goal of KaziBantu is to improve the overall and cardiovascular health of schoolchildren and their teachers. Its focus will be on promoting health literacy, ensuring a formalized physical exercise program, providing access to medical examinations including anti-helminthic treatment, monitoring cardiovascular risk factors and providing nutritional supplementation where necessary.

Professor Cheryl Walter said that “We have learned many lessons through the DASH Project, working with a small sample of schools. We found challenges that schools and teachers faced with regards to Life Orientation and Physical Education, large classes, an aging teaching population in terms of Physical Education and the under qualification of teachers therein,” she said.

“We feel that by providing the resources and support for teacher to implement Physical Education and Life Orientation at schools would go a long way in improving the health of our children.”

The KaziBantu Project has the support of the Departments of Health and Education, with the respective representatives present at the launch welcoming the project as a much-needed intervention to the overall health of schoolchildren.

Nelson Mandela Bay education district director Ernest Gorgonzola lauded the project for not only focusing on pupils, but teachers as well.

“Teachers teaching Life Orientation, and tasked with Phys-Ed studies, are not equipped for the job. I love how the project looks into the wellbeing of teacher as well,” he said.

“It is vital for schools to promote physical health, which contributes to the overall wellbeing of children.

“We have now looked more into our school nutrition programme to ensure there are foods that really contribute to the health of our children.”

Walmer Primary School principal Zukiswa Maku hailed the project, saying the national rollout would assist many more schools producing healthier pupils and better results.

“Many of our pupils come from very poor backgrounds and enter our gates with a lot of challenges that weigh on their ability to perform at school,” she said.

“Since working with the DASH Project, we have seen a marked improvement and have come to appreciate the importance of inculcating healthy habits as well as that of Physical Education, despite challenges in teaching the subject.”

Background on the KaziBantu and DASH projects can be found in a short video:

Four students given overseas study opportunity

Four Human Movement Science Masters students from Nelson Mandela University, Danielle Smith, Larissa Adams, Siphe Nqweniso and Nandi Joubert, spent four weeks in Switzerland, working on a collaborative project as part of the KaziBantu Project.

“Being involved and working on this project, has given me an opportunity and a privilege to travel overseas; something most South Africans will never experience in their lifetime. The new-found friendships and memories we made will forever remain close to my heart,” Larissa Adams said of the trip.

Siphesihle Nqweniso said “Being in Switzerland has been one of my favourite experiences in my life. I feel honoured and blessed to have been part of the team and getting a lifetime opportunity to visit the beautiful country. It was great seeing the cultural differences and the different ways people interact and live their lives . The public transport system was one of my highlights, it is very efficient and well managed and makes it easy for people to move around even though they are in an unfamiliar environment.“

SWISS AND SOUTH AFRICAN COLLABORATION … Role players on the health project included, from left, Prof Jürg Utzinger (Director of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute), Prof Uwe Pühse (Head of Sport Science, University of Basel) and the team Larissa Adams, Stefanie Gall, Danielle Smith, Prof Harald Seelig, Chantal Brügger, Roman Aebischer, Prof Markus Gerber, Nicola Hausner, Christian Herrmann, Siphesihle Nqweniso, Cornelia Pagoni, Michael Lieb, Christina Wadhwani, Nandi Joubert, Prof Peter Steinmann, Béatrice Goetz, Iwan Müller and Rafael Buehlmann.


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