School performance linked to nutrition
CHILD health can be linked to long-term poor performances in school.
A recent analysis by Daniela Casale, using data from the National Income Dynamics Study (Nids), found a link between child health and educational performance. Casale said this information suggested that intervention through the Department of Basic Education’s school feeding schemes had not been sufficient.
As a result of the paper, researchers are calling for policy reforms that will increase the effectiveness and impact of school feeding schemes across South Africa.
Casale’s paper analysed data from children from 2008 to 2014/15 through four rounds of Nids data collection, using information such as height-for-age and body mass index (BMI) as measures of stunting and obesity respectively. These, in turn, were taken as measures of poor nutrition.
The analysis found that children who were poorly nourished from the early years of their life routinely performed worse in school than their peers.
Educational outcomes were measured by using the age the child started Grade 1; the number of grades they had completed by 2014/15; and the answers to a series of questions on whether the child passed, failed or withdrew before completing grades they had enrolled in.
Children stunted when they were aged eight or younger performed significantly worse than their non-stunted peers.
“They were found to have enrolled later for Grade 1, completed fewer years of schooling and were more likely to have failed grades they enrolled in.
“This could have a knock-on effect for their future education prospects too, ultimately impacting on their earning potential down the line,” said Samantha Richmond, the Nids senior operations manager.
“The findings from this analysis make a compelling argument for assessing how existing school feeding schemes are being implemented and, by extension, what changes can and should be made to ensure their effectiveness,” said Richmond.
“In addition, the analysis points to the fact that feeding schemes may need to start earlier in order to reach children before they get to school,” she added.
Richmond said the Nids data could help policymakers better understand the consequences of poor nutrition and make informed decisions that positively impact child health.
“Thanks to Nids we are beginning to understand the impact of stunting on a child’s future. Nids data paints a concerning picture of avoidable damage to children’s future prospects.
“There is still significant inequality in child health along socio-economic lines, and lagging behind in education means that for many, the cycle of poverty is set to continue,” Richmond said.
STUNTING: Lack of nutritious food for children has a negative impact when it comes to a child’s learning abilities, the writer says.