Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Role of Education in addressing maternal health and the newborn child

At a critical time, when one could describe the status of educational impartation to be tangling across progress and recession, stakeholders in the education sector, media and advocate of national hope converged at Development Communications Network to discuss the way forward. Facilitators for the media forum were Mrs. Abolaji Osime, State team leader of Education Sector Support Program in Nigeria (ESSPIN), supported by Mrs. Taiye Alagbe, Communication & Knowledge Management Officer of ESSPIN.

Abolaji Osime briefed the media group on the core values which ESSPIN represents and on how the organization has been in the fore front of supporting the Federal and State Governments in Nigeria to make sustainable improvements in basic education services. “With a strong program output, ESSPIN has ventured into strengthening the governance framework of the Federal Government to enable basic education reform, strengthening State-level governance and management of basic education reform, improve the learning environment for children and promote demand for better education services” stated Mrs. Osime.

The state team leader also pointed out the pivot relationship between education and health: “Investments by Government in nutrition, health and education have a long term impact on economic growth and social development. Education improves hygienic practices. The use of health practices such as family planning allows the individual to make better choices impacting on productivity, which in turn has a significant impact on economic growth, poverty eradication, child survival and improved maternal health.”

She stressed that health & education were extremely important, as they are subject of 5 out of 8 Millennium Development Goals. Healthy populations are a major engine of economic growth. But Nigeria continues to strive to meet up with its goals for 2015, which are (MDGs related to health & education):
Achieve universal primary education
According to FME, only about 50% of children under the age of 15 are in school in Nigeria. There are major disparities between the North and south, rural/urban areas and across genders

Promote gender equality and empower women
Percentage female enrolment is about 45%

Reduce child mortality
Nigeria is ranked 14th in the world in under-fives deaths. 1million children under age 5 die each year (close to 200 out of every 1000 children in national average). The major causes of infant mortality are acute respiratory infections, malaria, diarrhoea and HIV/AIDS. Underlying these deaths are levels of education, poverty, ignorance, socio-cultural and religious issues. If we proceed at this level, it will take us 70 years to achieve the MDGs.

Improve maternal health
Nigeria accounts for 10% of maternal deaths worldwide; although the country only accounts for 20% of the worlds population

Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Due to its prevalence, malaria has had an impact on productivity and is a major cause of infant mortality. Studies show that between 1 and 5% of Nigeria’s GDP is lost to malaria

It was pointed out that there is a need to anchor our values in the health and education system around core features such as motivation to learn, active community participation, value of academic achievement, ability to proceed to further learning, social and civic skills, economic well-being and healthier students.

WHO defines Health as a State of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Good health not only promotes human development, it enhances work skills and promotes economic growth via increased productivity.
Early marriage is a huge contributor to maternal morbidity and mortality. Bearing a child while still an adolescent herself, these teenage girls are twice as vulnerable to complications during pregnancy, birth injuries, and maternal mortality than mothers above the age of 20.
National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) 2003 shows that women who attended at least 7 years of school are far less likely to marry before the age of 20 ( 25,5%) compared to those who attended less than 7 years of schooling (83,5%). Female education must therefore be given priority in effectively curbing maternal mortality, as women with a higher educational level are also more aware of risk signs during pregnancy and after delivery, are more likely to seek medical care, and use modern methods of contraception more often. Furthermore, female education is closely linked to child survival : An educated woman is 50% more likely to have her children immunized and deaths of children under five years of mothers who have spent at least seven years in primary education is reduced drastically. (NDHS,2003)

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