School Health Outreach Program (SHOP)
Children’s health issues are the most common cause of absenteeism in Swazi schools, and they ultimately contribute to the country’s high drop out rates. Orphans and vulnerable children have a high unmet need for healthcare services, and poor health severely compromises their academic performance and ability to stay in school.
In response, Bantwana developed the School Health Outreach Program (SHOP) with Swaziland’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW), school leadership, and parents, guardians, and local leaders in targeted communities. SHOP reaches more than 7,000 vulnerable children and youth annually and another 19,000 with health education in 37 schools in Lubombo Region.
Funded by the Izumi Foundation, SHOP deploys mobile health teams to schools to provide free health services to children. SHOP activities are coordinated with the Bantwana Schools Integrated Program (BSIP).
SHOP’s three major components include:
- Health screening, treatment and referrals which contribute to early detection of childhood illnesses, on-the-spot treatment, and referral for children who need additional care. SHOP focuses on referrals for HIV testing and counseling, and for adolescent reproductive health counseling.
- School health nurses and youth peers facilitate health education sessions about important youth issues, such as early marriage and gender roles. These sessions help adolescents think critically about how their behavior affects their health and motivates them to take charge of their health. Young people are able to use this critical information to protect themselves against HIV, STIs, and unwanted pregnancies.
- First aid training and provision of first aid supplies, as well as training in universal HIV precautions, help teachers in schools nationwide to immediately attend to minor health issues.
In addition to increasing access to health care services for adolescents, evidence suggests that SHOP has contributed to improved uptake and performance in school as a result of decreased absenteeism and school drop-out, as well as an increased ability on the part of students to improve focus and make better decisions both in and out of the classroom.