Friday, April 5, 2013

Brush, Brush, Brush Your Teeth

Did you know that this Sunday is World Health Day? I find at home we don't give a lot of attention to marking the UNESCO days at school, but here it is quite important, in part because the influence the UN has had in Bhutan.

I was nominated as the UNESCO Club leader and so it is my job to think of ways to mark these important days. At a recent staff meeting it was decided that these 'celebrations' should include the whole school.

Although the theme for this year's World Health Day is High Blood Pressure, the most obvious health problem that I see in the student population is dental health awareness. Children walk to school eating a handful of lollies, passing them around among their friends. When a child has a birthday they bring an enormous container of sweets and share them among their friends and teachers. Add this to an environment where fruit is not available locally and even vegetables are hard to come by, most children snack on lollies, chips and biscuits because there isn't a healthy alternative.

While most older children brush their teeth (according to my UNESCO club girls), younger children generally do not. Some do have lovely white teeth but about half of my class have rotting teeth, evidently the sugar has won!

Class 1 boys proudly display their colourful toothbrushes before school.

 And then we all sang Brush, Brush, Brush Your Teeth (to the tune of Here We go Round The Mulberry Bush) during library time.

When I was writing some simple facts on the board for my UNESCO girls to use on the posters that they made to promote the toothbrushing event we held today, I realised that dental floss is not even available here so no one knows to use it - even though my dentist at home tells me I should floss daily (I am not very good at following his recommendation) and the kids should floss at least four times a week.

Desiging a poster to promote Dental Health at UNESCO Club.

I'll have to allow two sessions for the girls to make posters next time - they had a great time with writing with the stencils, but didn't have time to finish the colouring in.

I have noticed a really positive step in the right direction this week: as a staff it was discussed last week to ban all sweets from school - a huge improvement on kids chewing bubblegum all through the day! The Scouts of Chumey have been at all school gates the last three days opening all students' bags and confiscating any offending junk food. It has also been placed as a matter of importance on the agenda to discuss at the upcoming Parent-Teacher meeting. Positive change can happen when we all work together. Another flow-on will hopefully be a reduction in rubbish around town as it is predominantly snack food packaging that litters the gutters and streams.

So two big steps in the right direction happened today - the Health Club distributed a large bucket, jug and bar of soap to each class that can now be used by students to wash their hands everyday before lunch. I had been hoping for something like this to happen: with all the germs that must go round in our congested classroom it seems imperative to wash hands with soap.

Mrs Pema Selden helps her PP class wash their hands.

The very responsible class 4 captain takes control of hand washing.

Bob and Remy came down to join us for a very relaxing lunch in the sun - it is still wintery, but sitting in the midday sun felt warm and rejuvenating. Bob brought toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches, his favourite momos picked up on the way and a thermos of tea.

By five to one kids started to gather for the 'Toothbrushing Event' scheduled for 1pm. All morning kids had been playing with their toothbrushes that were hidden in their ghos and kiras and they were very keen to get into it. The school principal supplied a few tubes of toothpaste and that was all that was required to get the brushes scrubbing! We started with a few students who had a bit of instruction in technique, but soon hundreds of students and all the teachers gathered and it was a flurry of distributing toothpaste and showing kids where to spit and rinse. It was a very festive atmosphere - the kids had so much fun - suprisingly!!! Many brushed for well beyond the recommended 2-3 minutes and many came back for a second serve of toothpaste to do it all again!!!

Handing out the red-coloured strongly flavoured Indian toothpaste.

The boys are having fun!!!

The sight of hundreds of students, young and old joining in was awesome!!!
A few grimaces as they get to those hard to reach places!!!

It was really lovely to see the teachers embrace the spirit of the moment and brush with vigour among the students, setting a great example. Even some teachers who usually have red doma-stained (betel-nut) teeth had sparkly whites by the end!

It was great that the Principal came down and set a good example.

Teachers enthusiastically participated.

I think one measure of the success of the event was that on the way home we came across a group of four boys who had stopped in the middle of the road to get out their toothbrushes, share around the toothpaste and walk home brushing together!!! It was so heartwarming to see!

And the lower primary teachers have decided we will continue on a weekly basis to keep the habit going. Hopefully having fun while brushing will develop positive attitudes to Dental Health!

Happy World Health Day!!!

Oh, and who is this handsome guy I found hanging around before school ????


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