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South Africa: Western Cape Government launches Wellness Mobiles to Screen Learners
Source: Issued by: Western Cape Education
Source Date: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Focus: Internet Governance
Country: South Africa
Created: Nov 26, 2013

The wellness units will be staffed with professional health staff who will undertake the screening of the learners and provide diagnostic assessment and treatment options as required. Referral to health facilities will be ensured where necessary.

Typical school health screening will include:
• learners’ vision and hearing
• ear, eye and skin examinations
• testing of gross and fine motor skills, mental health, speech, and tuberculosis.
• Oral health care
The initiative will run parallel with to the current integrated school health programme service.

For these five mobile wellness units the Western Cape Department of Health has budgeted R11.5 million which will contribute towards the payment of staff, fuel and other consumables. The Department of Education has allocated R12.5 million, which will cover the cost of the leasing the mobile service. This will include the driver/operator, vehicles, equipment, maintenance and support. The Western Cape Government’s initial commitment to this project will be R24 million.

Tenders for a 10-year contracted service for the Wellness Mobile Wellness closed on Friday 22nd November and is in the process of adjudication. The first five mobile units are planned to hit the roads by mid-2014.

Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, said: “The screening of learners is a key element in our wellness strategy to reduce illness and bring about a healthier society. We can no longer afford to construct more hospitals and provide more chronic medication. The solution lies in detecting disease earlier, and that is why we are targeting our young children first where the benfits of preventing disease is the greatest.” Minister Botha added, “If we are able to detect visual and hearing disabilities early it will also be possible to improve the school performance.”

“But government cannot do this alone. We need the private sector to come on board in a partnership agreement. This is why we trust that the private sector will partner with us in developing and sponsoring the wellness mobile unit concept that we are demonstrating today possibly through co-branding.”

Western Cape Education Minister, Donald Grant, said, “This investment in child healthcare will have many benefits for education. I have repeatedly said in the last four years that the ‘protection of teaching and learning time’ is a top priority for this government. If we want to reduce the drop-out rate, improve language and mathematics and the quality of passes in the NSC then we need to maximise every learning opportunity available to us. However, many children miss valuable teaching time for reasons of ill-health.

Learners that are frequently absent can fall behind in their classwork which can often affect their final results. Therefore this investment into these wellness mobiles is much bigger than only the healthcare of our children; it is also an investment into their education, and ultimately their future.”

Grant said that the various screening tests will identify if the child has any disabilities or challenges that may have not been diagnosed and could limit their school performance.

“For example, a learner may be struggling in the class environment due to an undetected hearing disability. If such a disability can be correctly diagnosed, and a hearing aid provided, the learner’s classroom and learning experience will significantly improve, thus breaking down barriers to learning. Therefore, we cannot underestimate the importance of early detection and treatment of learners. The service will also spread an awareness of the importance of health beyond the school environment through to families and communities,” said Grant.

The Western Cape Government is committed to ensuring that as many learners as possible benefit from this programme. We are therefore inviting the private sector to partner with us to expand the reach of this important service through either contributing directly to the cost of the service or through marketing specific brands on the mobile vehicle.

Investing in the health and wellness of our children is an investment in education. Any contributions from the private sector to the improvement of health and education outcomes are invaluable not only to us as Government, but also to the community, parents and learners themselves.

Media enquiries:
Hélène Rossouw, Spokesperson for Theuns Botha, Minister of Health
Cell: 082 771 8834
E-mail: helene.rossouw@westerncape.gov.za

Bronagh Casey
Spokesperson for Donald Grant, Minister of Education
Western Cape Government
Cell: 072 724 1422
E-mail: Bronagh.casey@westerncape.gov.za
Bronagh Casey
Spokesperson for Minister Donald Grant
Cell: 072 7241422
Tel: 021 467 2377
Fax: 021 425 3616
E-mail: Bronagh.casey@pgwc.gov.za
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