Health factors in the ecology of human development of the primary school child in masii, Machakoes District , kenya
Mburia, Adel Kaari
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The study investigated the health factors in the ecology of human development of standard seven children in Kitooni Primary School, Masii, Machakos District, Kenya. The study, was motivated by the dearth of information in health education particularly with school-going children in the area of malaria and helminthic infections. Bronfenbrenner's model of Ecology of Human Development was used to help identify the health factors that affect the standard seven children in terms of predefined systems, microsystems I and II (the standard seven classroom and their home respectively), mesosystem (school), and the exosystem (community). The objectives of the study were: 1. To describe health educational factors which affect the standard seven child in terms of microsystems I and II, mesosystem and exosystem. 2. To establish the health status of standard seven children: microsystem I. 3. To identify factors in the classroom which affect the standard seven child's health: microsystem I. 4. To describe health educational factors in the school environment: mesosystem. 5. To identify health educational factors in the homes of standard seven pupils: microsystem II. 6. To describe health educational factors in the local community served by the school: exosystem. Data for the study were collected over a period of nine months, from September 1995 to May 1996. The study used both qualitative and quantitative methods with qualitative methods given greater emphasis. Ethnographic field work was used for the study. Quantitative methods were used for anthropometry and biochemical tests. Data was collected from 56 informants. Forty-six pupils were involved in anthropometry; 37 of whom were biochemically tested. Eight of these pupils were followed for in-depth interviews. Seven parents of these eight pupils were interviewed (one of the parents declined to be interviewed). The science and home science teachers in standard seven (one for each subject) and the clinical officer of Masii health centre were also interviewed. Semi-structured interviews were used with the pupils, teachers and the clinical officer while conversational interviews were used with the parents. Observations were made in all the places the researcher went to and photographs were taken where appropriate. Casual conversations also yielded a lot of information and helped validate information. Qualitative data analysis involved reconstruction of interviews and coding of field notes. Pattern coding was also done, display formats made and conclusions were drawn from the themes that were generated. It was found that there was scarcity of water the whole community and this had a great influence on the hygienic behaviour of all the community members. The pupils and their parents said that the commonest illness in their villages was malaria and yet only one parent knew the cause of malaria. The commonest health seeking behaviour with all the members of the community was self diagnosis and treatment. Health hazards such as dirty latrines were found in the school, at homes and in the community. Most pupils preferred child-to-child as opposed to parent-child communication in sharing health issues they had learnt in school. Children were mainly absent from school because of sickness, non-payment of school levies, during the planting season when they assisted their parents in planting and sometimes the boys stayed away to do manual jobs to help sustain the family.The teaching learning process was affected by a number of factors such as the little or non use of visual aids, the many exams in third term and a lot of class repetition - sometimes as many as half the pupils in a class repeated. The number of those who repeated increased drastically as one moved from standard four through eight. Girls were given most of the menial jobs in the school by the teachers, such as washing the dishes and sometimes making tea or lunch for the teachers, irrespective of whether it was class time or not. It was concluded that a lot of factors affect the health of school-going children and the model used provided an excellent opportunity to explore them. It is therefore important to bear the influence of the classroom, the school, the home and the community in mind when dealing with school-age children's health. Health education is not the work of one person alone. Pupils, teachers, parents and communities must be involved to promote, control and prevent health problems. What happens in the community, for instance, the use of safe drinking water from a water point will mean good health for all the children in the community. On the other hand whatever happens in the school compound such as the use of dirty latrines also has an effect on the child's health no matter how clean the home environment is. Health-related themes should infiltrate daily school activities and not just an adjunct to curriculum.