NATIONALNEWS

Congested boarding schools ‘exposing students to TB’

Experts raise the red flag, attribute many tuberculosis cases in institutions to increased enrolment, stretched facilities

@Morarak

Students in boarding schools are at higher risks of exposure to tuberculosis owing to congestion in most of the institutions, health experts have warned.

They said the government must urgently address the issue, especially in public schools.

The experts also raised concern that many schools lack a policy on regular screening of students.  Their remarks come slightly over a week after a Form Three student at Alliance High School died of tuberculosis at a Kiambu hospital.

This as People Daily learnt that the Stop TB Partnership had in January cautioned on the increase of TB cases in schools, especially boarding institutions.

Kenya chief national coordinator Evaline Kibuchi, in an email sent to a Lenana High School board member and copied to Samuel Misoi, assistant director of the National Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Lung Disease Programme (NTLLDP) at the Health ministry, said the increasing TB cases in boarding schools could be attributed to the increased enrolment, thanks to free education policy.

“Infrastructure such as dormitories and classes in these schools remain the same despite increased learner population, leading to congestion. This makes it a good breeding ground for TB,” she said.

Negligence at the school level, and by extension the Ministry of Health because of lack of a clear national policy on screening TB in schools, could cost more lives in congested institutions.

Kibuchi’s concerns were informed by the move by Lenana School to open its doors to day scholars, following a ministry of directive seeking to boost Form One enrolment  early in the year.

The institution is among national schools that were directed to accommodate day scholars.

Short-term measures Kibuchi had recommended include sensitisation of the schools management on TB to enable them to detect presumptive TB cases early and recommend treatment.

“While the Ministry of Education and that of Health should come together and put in place long-term measures to curb this public health menace in schools, there is need for short-term interventions to reduce likely infections among students,” she said.

She also recommended that schools understand the need for contact tracing in the school in case one of the students is infected with TB, and also ensure that school health management teams are well equipped to handle TB cases.

“This involves proper diagnosis, treatment, and infection control among others,” Kibuchi added.

She said it is puzzling during admission to schools, students are asked to undergo chest X-rays, yet they are not checked.

“ Most school nurses don’t have the capacity to read X-rays because they are not radiographers.”

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