Since 2007 course participants from The Gambia, comprising representatives from ministries of health and education have attended the SHN courses. Amicoleh Mbaye, Director of Basic and Secondary Education in the Gambia, explains the impact of the course on the country’s school based deworming programme.

Strengthening connections across ministries

The first course we attended was very influential to Gambia’s SHN programme implementation. Before this, there was a significant disconnect between ministries and it was unknown which ministries should take the lead in delivering school health programmes. In the case of deworming programmes for example, the Ministry of Health would have been carried out the deworming, outside of the education system and outside of a structured monitoring system which measured the extent of those dewormed.

Through our engagement with the Partnership for Child Development (PCD), I realised more needed to be done to coordinate ministerial activities and I advised my colleagues to attend the course so an understanding on effective collaboration between ministries could be affirmed.

During the course, partnership was a key lesson taught which led to the appreciation of each other’s role in the implementation of school health programmes. In particular, during the course breakout sessions we learnt from our sister countries who explained how to best harmonize across sectors.

The Multi-Sectoral Working Group – A Coordinating Body

After returning from the course in 2007 policies were put in place to strengthen collaboration and in 2010 a multi-sector working group on school health was set up, which included personnel from education, health and other relevant ministries in addition to development partners UNICEF, WFP, WHO and FAO. This well-coordinated group were responsible for monitoring the implementation of health programmes in schools.

Improving School Based Deworming in the Gambia

Through the school health working group the education sector were empowered to mobilise resources and put in place a well-coordinated deworming programme, implemented in collaboration with MoH, WFP and the National Nutrition Agency. This expanded on the original deworming programme which had been targeted at pre-schoolers and to include school-aged children through school-based deworming. Cascade training was also provided to two teachers per school to implement the school-based deworming programme.

The course had emphasised the importance of deworming, to mobilize our resources and to scale up deworming. Before then a very small number of schools from two regions in The Gambia were benefiting from deworming. Today, deworming is conducted across the whole country, in total between 2011 – 2013 1,605,000 children inclusive of pre-schoolers and those from Lower Basic Schools, Madrassas, and out of school children aged 6 – 13 were dewormed.