Kennedy Sipituma, Senior Statistical Officer from Zambia’s Ministry of Health (MoH) attended the SHN course and recommended his colleagues from national, provincial and district levels who then attended from 2005 – 2012. Below Kennedy reflects on the lessons Zambia have learnt to strengthen its SHN programmes.

Strengthening Cross-Sectoral Collaboration

After attending the courses in 2005 and 2006 we learnt a great deal from lessons shared across countries, in particular from Kenya, who had spoken about their experiences in SHN implementation during their country presentation and when we visited local Kenyan schools during field visits.

Before the course, coordination between ministries had been poor in Zambia and the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health had not cooperated a great deal. After the course we realized we needed to discuss what our role as the MoH could be in working with the Ministry of Education for the shared goal of ensuring our children are well in schools.

To improve coordination across sectors we drew up an SHN Strategic Plan and a National Steering Committee was formed. At the provincial, district and school levels SHN committees were also formed comprising all the relevant SHN stakeholders.

Today SHN programmes are implemented in collaboration between Zambia’s Ministry of Education, Science and Vocation Training and Early Education (MESVTEE) with the inclusion of health and other stakeholders to promote healthy and well-nourished learners in the country.

Strengthening Public-Private Partnership

Zambia learnt a great deal on the value of Public – Private Partnerships and how their contribution aids the success of the programmes.

Since we have attended the training, a number of NGOs and private companies have been involved in the delivery of Zambia’s SHN services as part of their corporate social responsibility and this has increased the participation of stakeholders and SHN service expansion to reach more vulnerable communities. For example in 2006 and 2007 partnerships were formed with milk company, Pamela, and oral hygiene organization, Colgate who contributed their product and support to relevant SHN activities.

A key reason for the involvement of these partnerships was due to there being a stable policy environment in place called the Government Policy of Public Private Partnerships which we had begun to develop following the 2008 SHN course.

Understanding the impact of SHN policy, guidelines and strategic plans

During the courses we came to understand how SHN programmes develop with the presence of SHN policies, guidelines and strategic plans as these commit Government and trained personnel to deliver SHN services in a cost effective manner.

Specifically, during breakout sessions we were taught how to write up and develop annual budget work plans and we started developing guidelines for: SHN policy; action plans; training manuals; strategic plans; and Memorandum of Understandings between MESVTEE and other implementing partners. Today, Zambia’s SHN policy is now incorporated into its main education policy called, Educating our Future which is also supported by SHN guidelines.

The most positive impact of having these plans in place is that the Government is now committed to supporting school health programmes, and funds can be duly allocated to SHN programmes.

Controlling Parasite Infection

During the course Zambia presented their existing school-based programmes and projects to participants and received useful feedback on how to further improve these.

We were also able to gain a good insight into the control of parasitic diseases in the region through field experience, country specific presentations and lectures and we learnt more about evaluating worm prevalence through the use of Geographical Information Systems in parasite control projects and the use of the Project Cycle Management/Design Matrix. From these teachings we were able to develop plans for Zambia.

On my return from the course, we advocated to the MoE, MoH, Ministry of Finance and all our other partner ministries to allocate budget funding to for parasite control programmes and Zambia’s deworming programme was rolled out nationally in 2006.

Training of key implementing personnel

The course has strengthened the capacity of the Zambia participants who now play a critical leadership role in the technological and socio-economic development of the country. Participants have taken part in in-country training with programme implementers to increase the expansion of SHN services throughout the whole country.

The course emphasized to us the importance of training district and health workers and teachers and carrying out training of trainers workshops to ensure this training could be infiltrated to district level.

Concluding remarks

The SHN course has proved very useful having a positive impact on the delivery of SHN services in the country. Participants have utilized the knowledge gained from the training and have been able to influence policy changes and implementation on their return to Zambia.