Africare, an international non-governmental organization has disclosed that its partnership with oil giant ExxonMobil, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) to mentor secondary school students in the country on public health, through an initiative, Power Forward, was yielding desired results.
The Country Representative of the institution, Dr Orode Doherty, said the initiative had greatly improved knowledge base of the students on how to live healthy, prevent diseases and ensure good hygiene.
She said the focus of partner organizations had been mainly on malaria, and that the disease burden was declining in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, where the initiative had been implemented for three years.
Doherty, who spoke at the launch of the fourth year of the Power Forward held in Abuja on Wednesday, said that the initiative would continue to focus on developing life skills and public health knowledge among secondary school students.
She however said funding challenges could not make the programme go beyond Abuja since it was launched. She appealed to federal and state governments in the country to see the programme as what could help reshape the nation’s health systems, and therefore support it.
“The work of Power Forward is really to engage young students in the FCT to use basketball as a platform to learn about life skills and public health and (Sustainable) Development Goals.
“Malaria is one of the diseases that we focus on in Nigeria that the children know about. It is something that individuals can contribute to the eradication of it through individual behaviour.
“So, definitely, understanding that every fever needs to be tested, and every fever that is tested, using a rapid diagnostic test and found to be positive, needs to be treated with the use appropriate ACT. To prevent malaria, we ensure that the children have understanding of who vulnerable groups are, people who are at most risk of having malaria.
“We make them know that they should clean their environment and that insecticide bed nets are used in pregnant women and children.”
She said the success of the programme is measured based on the impacts on its children. “We are looking at the improved behaviour and the effects of the thing we are doing on the children…The school environments are cleaner. People now understand that they can break down ethnic and religious barriers, focussing on improved behaviours,” she stated.
The Executive Director, Glisten International Academy Abuja, where the programme was launched, Samira Jibir, urged parents to ensure they discharge their roles in nurturing their children to become productive and successful adults.
She said there are many distractions for children of current generation which according to her are in conflict with the nation’s socio-cultural values.
She explained that exposure to high technology waves without control, their being left at the mercy of adults such as house-helps, relatives, drivers, cartoons, and without comprehensive sexuality education, constitute dangers to their future.
“We neglect our roles as adults to guide, love and protect these children; we have failed these children. This is the burning issue in our souls. We must therefore channel their energy towards positive programmes like these sports – for example basketball. What Power Forward is doing is quite commendable and is one of the healthy ways to engage the children’s time positively, build their confidence, develop friendship, team spirit and most importantly maximize their potentials.
“We urge parents to have more presence for their children not presents, love them and for schools to engage them in positive programmes. We once again thank Power Forward, all their sponsors, all the students and members of staff working for the success of this programme. We are proud of you (students) and we know as nation builders, we look up to, the world is waiting for you to explode positively,” she said.