Life orientation in the health promoting school : conceptualisation and practical implication
Globally there is a serious need to equip children and young people with knowledge, attitudes, skills and values to assist them in making healthy lifestyle choices. Life skills education is possibly among the most important answers to the problems and challenges many young people are faced with. Life skills programs are being developed to address the alarming increase in high risk health behaviours among adolescents. According to international research, Health promotion is a critical life skill to acquire, since health impacts on almost every facet of a person and their society. The South African Department of Education introduced Life Orientation as a Learning Area as part of Outcomes Based Education. The paramount role of Life Orientation within the context of the Health Promoting School is increasingly being recognised by educational planners, policy makers, school managers, teachers, parents and even learners themselves. Health promotion as part of Life Orientation aspires to promote a healthy lifestyle and equip learners with the knowledge and skills to attain and maintain a healthy lifestyle. It further aims to reduce risk behaviours and equip learners with social skills. Empirical research was done in the Gauteng Province of South Africa. In order to give voice to teachers and health co-ordinators in terms of their views and comments on Life Orientation, questionnaires and focus group interviews were utilised. Based on the evidence gathered in questionnaires, discussions and observations in the selected Health Promoting Schools, it emerged that Life Orientation has a major role to play in instilling knowledge and skills to promote health and well-being. However, even though Health promotion is included in the Life Orientation curriculum, there seems to be a lack of energy and motivation to progress to Health Promoting Schools. It emerged that Life Orientation teachers viewed a healthy lifestyle as the link between Life Orientation and Health promotion, which is a positive indication that schools are making progress towards becoming Health Promoting Schools. Furthermore, the quantitative research revealed key issues that need be dealt with, especially proper water and sanitation, policies on tobacco and substance use, the enhancement of physical well-being of the learners and an integrated nutrition program. Schools need an effective safety and security plan to ensure a safe school environment conducive to teaching-and-learning. Learners should receive basic health screening with appropriate referrals from school nurses. Also, trained health promoters should oversee and manage the health promoting program in the Health Promoting School. The qualitative research indicated that healthy lifestyles are promoted, with particular focus on balanced diets, clean and hygienic environments and adequate physical activity. It emerged that stakeholders play an important role, including the community, school nurses, private companies and governmental departments. Community involvement is particularly important, since community members assist the school by cleaning, cooking, gardening and participating in health promoting awareness. It can be concluded that Life Orientation has a prominent role to play in the Health Promoting School. A successful initiative requires the involvement of the entire school, changes to the schools’ psychosocial environment and participation from the parents and wider community.
- Education