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Introducing first aid training, usage in our schools

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ENSURING our children are safe at schools is one of the top priorities of parents, teachers, and school administration. Many accidents occur in schools, ranging from minor scrapes and wounds to fractures and other health problems that require a swift initial medical response.

Without initial medical assistance, a non-threatening injury can turn into a serious one. Moreover, when left untreated, serious injuries can become fatal. Because the mental and physical abilities of children are not developed enough to allow them to protect and defend themselves; they are always involved in accidents, sustaining injuries more frequently, and require first aid more often than adults.

First aid is the temporary and immediate treatment given to a person who is injured or suddenly becomes ill with the facilities or materials available at that time before regular medical help is imparted.

Few weeks ago, I went to a hospital in Awka metropolis to see a friend that was sick. While I was there, a schoolgirl of about 13 years was brought in a stretcher, and was rushed into the hospital’s emergency ward.

Two days later, I came back to check on my friend, in the course of our discussion, I asked her about that  girl, and she told me she did not make it – she died that morning. Feeling sad, I asked her what really happened to the girl. She said, “the girl fell face down from the staircase of her school’s dormitory over the weekend.

The doctor said she was not brought in early enough and no form of treatment was given to her, so she died of internal bleeding and other complications”.

The next day, I went to the said school (a secondary school in Ayamelum Local Government Area) to find out what really happened, why the girl was not at least given a first aid treatment. I found out to my uttermost bewilderment that this school’s first aid box contain rusted and expired materials.

I went further to ask why such expired and rusted materials should be found in a modern school’s first aid box. And the principal’s response shocked me to the marrows. “This first aid box was handed over to me by my predecessor exactly four years ago”. For this to be a response from a principal in whose school a child died from lack of a working first aid box is a food for thought.

Speaking on the issue, Godspower Onwuka, a pharmacist said, “first aid knowledge is invaluable for schools, individuals and the community at large and it can only be applied if proper knowledge is acquired. If an accident happens, the presence of a helpless witness cannot be of any help to the injured. Here comes the benefit of first aid education which potentially allows the witness to assist an injured or ill person in emergency situation and to save that person’s life.

Knowledge of first aid benefits the individuals themselves regardless of whether an emergency affects them directly or not. First aid education is essential in schools and it is beneficial to all, because anybody can need first aid treatment at any time. In the event of a medical emergency, first aid is the initial assistance provided to a child or individual while waiting for the medical professionals to arrive or before taking the victim to a hospital as the case may be.

In the worst of cases, first aid can be the difference between life and death. The fact remains that very little importance is attached to training of school teachers and students on first aid by school management and education stakeholders.

Therefore, it seems a pressing necessity for the government to strengthen school health services by making sure that every school don’t just get a well equipped first aid box but providing them with the required training sessions.

According to Mazi Onyekwelu, a retired primary school teacher, “Children are vulnerable to injuries and accidents, which may vary from minor injuries to severe accidents resulting in bleeding and fractures, thus the first-aid management becomes as important as taking a child to a medical facility.

Children spend most of their daytime in schools, and are at greater risk of accidents and injuries due to involvement in sports and other extracurricular activities, and hence require first-aid more often than do adults. Overall, majority of the injuries among children are directly related to outdoor physical activities, of which 70% occur during school hours.

First-aid is the treatment given for any injury or sudden illness prior to any professional medical help provided. The primary objective of first aid is to alleviate suffering, facilitate healing process and minimize damage.

First action taken for management of injuries as a first aid is very crucial as it decides the future course of disease and complication rates. The knowledge of first aid, when properly applied, can bridge the gap between temporary or permanent injury, rapid recovery, or long-term disability.

But how can one begin to talk about providing trainings on how to proffer first aid solutions to victims when there is hardly any government owned school in Nigeria with a fully equipped first aid box. You can only see working first aid boxes in all these very expensive private schools.

Usually, one may not expect that an average Nigerian school will have trained health care professionals such as doctors or nurses in their premises as permanent employees, but if working first aid boxes are provided for schools (public or private), teachers, as full time employees should be made the main care givers by providing them with proper training in first aid management.

In Mrs Akukwu’s view, “Safety of children is the prime concern of teachers, parents and community. Every school has a legal responsibility to take care of each and every member of the school.

Accidents happen in school premises always; school children face injuries, fractures, sometimes, they often suddenly fall sick. Among the safety measures, first aid is of prime importance. First aid is so important that teaching basic first aid management should be made compulsory in all schools.

Therefore, schools should be equipped with right supplies of first aid to protect the well being of school children, teachers and staff. Emergency situations can occur at any time, and in any location. First aid management training promotes a safer and healthier school environment because through the training, teachers are empowered with the right skills and confidence needed to safely respond to every emergency situation or accidents.

Basic first aid training helps teachers treat/respond to the medical emergencies like bleeding (caused by minor and severe wounds) burns, unconsciousness, head injuries, bone injuries (i.e., fractures and sprains), muscle and joint injuries, choking, drowning ,chest pains and other forms of emergencies.

“Therefore, government, and indeed, all education stakeholders should have a way of making sure that every school gets a well equipped first aid box, get the teachers and other staff trained in first aid management. First aid management training should in fact be included in the school syllabuses, because that is the only way to make everybody safety conscious and safety oriented. In so doing, deaths are prevented and our environment is generally made safer”.

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