Establish Student’s Health & Safety Support System In Schools

By:

Chan Yit Fei

Affiliations:

Agora Society Malaysia

Policy Code:

3f Education

Problem Statement:

Background:
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hits the country, the number of student reporting mental health problem is prevalent. According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2017, 1 in 10 students had seriously considered attempting suicide, and 7% of the students attempted suicide one or more times within past 12 months. 1 in 5 experienced depressions, 2 in 5 were anxious, and 1 in 10 were stressed. Now that COVID-19 has impacted the entire country, coupling with devastating policies such as MCOs and school closures, more students are facing increasing threats due to domestic violence, sexual aggressions, loss or reduce of household incomes, loss of learning, loss of social activities etc, it is critical that the government takes this issue seriously and takes step to implement policies to prevent and control the mental health issues before it becomes an epidemic of its own.

Specific Targeted Issues:
1. Prevalence of physical health issues such as obesity, stunting or wasting, malnutrition is on the rise. Current health policies targeted at school children are falling short at delivering their intended outcomes.
2. The number of students suffering from mental issues including depression, stress, anxiety, and having suicidal thoughts are also increasing.

With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation described in the above issues is expected to be exacerbated, affecting the health and well-being of more students, particularly those who come from poor families.
3. There is a lack of systematic approach in implementing school health programmes. There is no designated committee to advising and overseeing the implementation of the programme, to analyse and evaluate the policy outcome, and to coordinate efforts across agencies and stakeholders.
4. Reviews of the outcomes and impacts of these programmes (policy analysis) are not done in a regular and timely manner. And there is little evidence that there is a feedback mechanism for policy reforms (failings of systematic management/coordination) , leave alone its accessibility of public.
5. There is a serious lack of transparency and accountability in the programme implementation under these policies. As a result, there is no way for the public to scrutinize the quality of governance.
6. Lack of safe channel or mechanism for students who fall victim to domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual aggression, school bullying, etc to report grievances.

Value(s) and Belief(s):

1. Looking at the scale of impacts of COVID-19 and the policies implemented to control the disease, the entire nation needs a more robust mental health programme to support citizens in need. While the programme may not help eradicate poverty totally, nevertheless they could help relief burden born by the families across nation.
2. Promote accountability and good governance/ practices in implementation of school health programmes and nutrition programmes.
3. Our school systems must be an essential part of the mental health system in which the counsellors and teachers are well trained for identifying symptoms, reporting/documenting cases, and offer initial help for the students in need, and networked with professional counsellors/clinical psychologist/psychiatrists who are able to support in timely manner. Seeing that the pandemic and government policies affect the society unequally, appropriate steps must be taken to focus on delivering help and support to the underprivileged groups, including undocumented or stateless migrant children.

Proposal of Solution:

1. Establish a national health and safety support system in which schools are part of, to promote and protect students’ physical/mental health and safety through the school they attend.
2. Establish coalition/committee that is constitute of various stakeholders, including healthcare professional at the district level,but not limited to:
i. oversees health programmes and health reports (obesity/overweight, malnutrition, stunting/wasting, abuse of drugs, unsafe sex) from schools.
ii. Assist schools to deliver effective health education, including physical education, with appropriate tests (e.g. comprehensive PE tests) to assess the actual impact of these education/programmes on student’s health and fitness.
iii. Inspect the outcome of health education or physical education
iv. Assist schools in running evidence-based health awareness programmes, informed by the annual reports and other health reports published by the MoE.
v. Develop targeted programmes for the underprivileged students with health issues.
vi. Leveraging on celebrity chefs to promoting affordable balance-nutrions dietary in school and ensure school meet the targeted goal.
vii. Eduacting students regarding the impact of imbalance diet in long run.

3. A national mental health plan that ensures mental health programmes and relevant professional developments for schoolteachers, counsellors to equip our teachers at schools to be able to identify students at risk and deliver effective counselling or help for students or refer to expert mentors.
4. Establish functioning mental health system within each school or within a district that oversees schools, which should include facilities safe for secluded counselling purposes.
5. Schools to run programmes to educate students, parents and the surrounding communities on mental health issues and prevention measures (help lines, coping mechanisms etc).
6. Set up delivery mechanisms so that free nutrition programmes does not stop when school closes.

Additional Information:

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