It’s been three months since two students died and 31 became very ill at Orong HSS due to chronic vitamin deficiency.
It’s been three months, and finally, last Friday, the education minister announced his response to the disgraceful state of nutrition in our schools. First, the the education ministry has submitted a proposal to increase the school feeding stipend from Nu 700 to nu 1000 per month. Second, the ministry has formed a task force to investigate what happened and to assign responsibility to those involved. And third, the education and health ministries have decided to work together to identify nutritious food, provide medical check ups, and resume the supply of vitamin tablets for students.
The education minister is correct in calling the Orong HSS deaths involuntary manslaughter. Two students died tragically, and as many as 31 students were taken seriously ill. But many more students would have suffered by not having the minimum amount of micronutrients in their diet. And that would mean that their mental and physical development has already been compromised.
We cannot allow this to happen. We now have proof that our children in Orong, but also in other schools, do not have the minimum amount of micronutrients needed for the healthy development of their bodies and minds. Allowing this to continue – that is, depriving our children of essential micronutrients – would now amount to an atrocious crime.
Here’s Tim Harford telling a story about how Archie Cochrane, a prisoner of war during the second world war, identified vitamin deficiency among his fellow prisoners of war, and how he secured the vital vitamins for them.