Marg Armstrong is volunteering with the Nishi Foundation in Tonga to help develop Mai e Nima, a programme to educate primary schools about healthy lifestyles and good nutrition. The purpose is to address Non Communicable Diseases which attribute to 74% of deaths in Tonga related to obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
I started in May 2018 with Mai e Nima – a programme focussed on healthy eating and nutrition. It was initiated in 2012 and was being piloted to 10 schools, funded by the Tonga Health Promotion Foundation.
The programme needed someone to help develop it and expand it into all the schools in Tonga. One of the barriers was a reluctance by the Ministry of Education to accept extracurricular programmes into schools because Cyclone Gita, which hit in early 2018, has caused a huge disruption to available teaching time.
Because Mai e Nima and the National Rugby League (NRL) share a common goal, they formed a partnership. The NRL had already been accepted into the school curriculum for the past three years, delivering five 30-minute lessons on Health and Wellbeing, with the main focus on physical activity.
Thanks to good feedback and the NRL’s track record,- they were given permission from the Ministry of Education to increase the programme to 10 lessons. Mai e Nima has been able to use a portion of that to teach students about the benefits of healthy lifestyles and good nutrition.
At the end ofyear, the stakeholders compiled a new Health and Wellbeing Programme of the 10 lessons to be delivered in 2019. As part of thedevelopment I ran some “healthy lunchbox” lessons to trial teaching aids. This included “healthy lifestyles”, food safety, food preparation, using reusable drink bottles, nutrition, healthy and unhealthy food choices.
Healthy Lunch Box Lessons
This week NRL/Mai e Nima has been able to proudly present the new Health and Wellbeing Teacher Resource to five teacher cluster groups. It has been enthusiastically received by the Ministry of Education and schools. The schools have never had lesson plans on nutrition to use in the past.
The programme covers nutrition, physical education and mental health (recognising effects and types of bullying).
To support the programme, we encourage and support the development of school gardens, to help influence communities to get back to traditional foods.
It is well recognised that healthier lifestyles will increase the learning capacity of students and their attendance at school. The intention is for students to take information home and hopefully influence their families and communities. We are partnering with the teachers and encouraging them to help reinforce our healthy messages in schools, especially if the teachers’ jobs are made easier by improving students’ reception to learning.
To make the programme sustainable, there are exercises in the teacher resource which can be completed after the lesson delivery by NRL, or completed for homework to create a link with home.
Kiko who is doing the presenting in Tongan at GPS Longolongo- another teacher cluster meeting.