Schools brace to fight Dengue | Sunday Observer

Schools brace to fight Dengue

27 May, 2018

“Dengue infects mostly in active blood and that is why children become the worst victims when it comes to dengue fever,” says Principal, Brevet Major. D.A.D.Wanaguru of Sri Jayawardenepura Maha Vidyalaya, Kotte. Dengue fever affects children differently as compared to adults because the symptoms are usually milder in children. Symptoms in children look more like a common cold, with low-grade fever, tiredness, runny nose, and cough. A child’s symptoms will be more severe and include bleeding if they become infected with dengue fever a second time.

“Every month I conduct a game for the students where they have to find a dengue breeding site within the school premises. I allocate them a time period, and the first three students who locate a site will be awarded Rs. 200. I encourage them in this manner, so that they are motivated. Now every month , the students await to participate in this competition. This helps me to keep the school premises clean,” he said.

Major Wanaguru says, every week a particular class is instructed to clean the whole school. “We also have dengue awareness programs where we teach students about the severity of the illness and advise them to take precautions. Polythene is banned in the school and students have been told to bring their breakfast in lunch boxes. Every month a student parliament is conducted on the topic “Waste Management”. I involve them in many such activities to educate them on this issue,” he added.

When contacted, the Director of Education, School Health and Nutrition Branch of the Ministry of Education, Renuka Peiris who is in charge of creating a health promoting school environment said, the Education Ministry has sent a circular to all government schools requesting them to allocate an hour every week on Fridays from 8.30 am to 9.30 am for students to clean the school premises and destroy any dengue breeding sites.

“We visit schools and inspect the premises to ensure that they follow the circular instructions. We can see that all schools are following it and it is therefore a success. This helps us to keep the schools premises clean and free from dengue breeding sites.

Another program, introduced under the circular is where all parents, past students and well wishers should help clean the school premises on a particular Sunday every month and this too is happening in all government schools,” Peiris said.

According to W.H.A.B. Jayalath, ICT Teacher at Bandaranaike College, Gampaha, Gampaha Municipal Council helps to clean and monitors their school.. He says, plastic and polythene are strictly banned in school and they follow the circular issued by the Ministry of Education. “Every week we conduct a cleaning campaign in school where all the students have to allocate the last two periods for this purpose. It is happening successfully and there isn’t many dengue patients reported from our school,” said Jayalath.

Dr. Ovini Bandaranayake, Coordinator – Dengue Operations at Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) spoke to the Sunday Observer about their programs to educate schoolchildren on dengue prevention. She said, “We have been assisting the government during disasters and emergencies. The Dengue Outbreak which occurred in 2017 marked one of the largest outbreaks in the country. SLRCS, as a volunteer-based organization, was able to mobilize its volunteers towards Dengue Prevention and Control.”

“The School Clean up Campaigns are conducted to ensure Dengue Free School along with the Inter-School Dengue Competition.

The Dengue Prevention Program provides a window of opportunity for SLRCS to extend its service to the outbreak response in the country. It is further committed to serve the communities during disease outbreaks through its volunteer and organizational network,” Dr. Bandaranayake said.

The SLRCS has distributed colour coded and compost bins to recycle waste. We have printed and distributed IEC materials to raise awareness among communities and schoolchildren on how to identify and clean Dengue breeding sites, and how to take care of Dengue patients.

These materials are printed in three languages; Sinhala, Tamil and English. IEC materials include; leaflets, posters, cards and workbooks, she said.

Dr. Bandaranayake explained that the SLRCS branches trained Red Cross and Village volunteers on Dengue infection and breeding sites identification. “Branch Dengue Coordinators, Public Health Inspectors, Medical Officers of Health conducted these training programs.

The dengue mosquito attacks humans mostly during daytime. Children are at school during this time, so that the removal of Dengue breeding sites in schools is important. The campaigns were initiated with an awareness about Dengue mosquito breeding sites to a group of 30 students, named, ‘The Dengue Circle.’ Then SLRCS volunteers together with students in the Dengue Circle conduct Clean up Campaigns at school premises and advise them to conduct campaigns once a week,” she said.

“SLRCS volunteers were trained to make useful items with waste materials during volunteer training programs, which the schoolchildren were also taught during the school clean up campaigns.To further encourage schoolchildren, we conducted a Dengue Free School Competition recently, and plan to conduct several such programs in the future,” said Dr. Bandaranayake.

She said, they conducted events such as, up cycling exhibitions, selection of best dengue workbook, selection of best dengue circle activity book, inter-district dengue drama and quiz competition and follow up visits to schools where campaigns were conducted to assess dengue breeding sites. “Up cycling exhibitions were conducted to minimize wastage and upgrade children’s talents,” she added.

The intensive inter sectoral program for the prevention and control of dengue issued by the National Dengue Control Unit, Ministry of Health and Presidential Task Force on Dengue Control for schools, instructs to establish school dengue control committees, include an hour in the time table for cleaning, divide the school premises into zones and give responsibility to relevant classes, inspect the school daily by the dengue control committee: provide a weekly report to the Principal, who would in turn submit a monthly report to Zonal Director and the relevant Ministry of Health.

The other activities to combat dengue in schools put forward by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education are to clean the premises and remove mosquito breeding sites before commencing schools after each vacation, by all parents and students, daily completion of the field inspection form for dengue breeding sites and inform problematic areas to higher officials, provide solutions by the institutional head and higher officials, send a monthly report to Zonal Director and a summary to the Ministry of Education about the mosquito breeding tendency, develop waste management system in schools, educate all schoolchildren about waste segregation, prevent carrying polythene to school, under the ‘No polythene’ policy, establish a committee to supervise waste segregation process and prepare a report and hold inter school and district level competitions on ‘Prevention of dengue mosquito breeding’.

Meanwhile, a teacher from Ladies College, Colombo, who wished to remain anonymous, lamented that there is a storm water drain next to their school which is a huge dengue breeding site. “We have been complaining to the Colombo Municipal Council for several years but no action has been taken,” she says. “As we are a private school, our students do not clean the premises instead we have a maintenance staff who do it.

We spray citronella spray regularly and clean the premises and make sure that the place is clean and free of dengue breeding site for students. We clean the gutters every day and use mosquito traps as well. The police does checkups and make sure the premises are clean,” she added.