Government launches deworming programme for learners

The Departments of Basic Education and Health have endorsed the regular deworming of learners.

The deworming programme, according to the department, aims to improve children's health, reduce health barriers to learning and assist learners to stay in school and perform to the best of their abilities.

The deworming programme was launched on 16 February 2016 and is currently being rolled out with the Human Papillomavirus Vaccination (HPV) programme.

The department said the goal was to attain a minimum target of regular administration of deworming medication to at least 75% of school-age children and up to 100% of those at risk of morbidity.

South Africa is a signatory to World Health Assembly resolution which calls for regular, synchronised treatment of worms in high-risk groups.

Following Basic Education Angie Motshekga's announced that the department will deworm learners, the World Health Organisation (WHO) donated seven million Mebendazole 500mg tablets.

Samples of these tablets were quality assured by Johnson and Johnson in Portugal and a certificate of analysis indicating compliance was issued. The South African Medicines Control Council (MCC) approved receipt of the medication.

Through the support of the Department of Health, the council granted permission for educators to deworm learners under the supervision of a qualified nurse.

Educators were orientated on worm infestations and the deworming process. The school health nurse will be available on site to mitigate side effects.

The deworming tablets are completely safe but in rare occasions, mild side effects may occur and more serious side effects are extremely rare. The side effects, if any, are likely to disappear within two hours.

"The deworming tablets are considered to be safe, as they are registered as a Schedule 1 tablet, which anybody can access over the counter and administer independently. As such, there are no known severe side effects of the deworming tablets, if there are any," the department assured.

All parents are required to give consent by signing a consent form which is optional.