After eleven weeks of playfully learning about how to protect their health and well-being, more than 400 children proudly received their certificates on the successful completion of the '11 for Health' programme at Immanuel Shifidi High School in Katutura, Windhoek. Twenty-two teachers and ten volunteers celebrated with the kids the completion of the carefully planned and conducted 11-week pilot test, which culminated in this graduation ceremony.
In January 2011, Prof. Jiri Dvorak, Chairman F-MARC, met with major exponents of the Namibian Football Association and Ministries of Health and Social Services, Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture, and Education to lay the foundation for a multi-sided cooperation on the country-wide implementation of the '11 for Health' in Namibia. Two months later, an F-MARC research team comprising Dr Astrid Junge, PhD, and Prof. Colin Fuller, PhD, finalised the plans for a pilot study in 11 schools. Starting in May, hundreds of children played football and learned the imbedded health messages at the primary schools of St. Barnabas, Eros, Bet-El, Augheikas, Mandume, Tobias Hainyeko, Aupa Indongo, Martti Athisaari, Moses van der Byl and Michelle McLean.
Now, eleven weeks later, the graduating learners demonstrated their new skills gained in the programme by doing the “kilos” in between the official speeches at the event. Dr Abraham Iyambo, Minister of Education, and FIFA Chief Medical Officer and Chairman of F-MARC Professor Jiri Dvorak both attended and spoke on this occasion, announcing that the research team together with the country officials had approved the plans to expand the programme now to all schools around the country.
In his address, the Honourable Abraham Iyambo congratulated the learners to having successfully mastered the '11 for Health' programme. “You are the most valuable assets and the guarantee of the future of this country. The exciting aspect of '11 for Health' is the focus on the health of communities in which our children nourish their minds, blossom and live.” The minister then continued to appeal to their teachers to continue to assist the youngsters in becoming better and healthier citizens. He thanked the two football bodies FIFA and the NFA for the successful joint implementation of the pilot phase of the project, stressing that "The '11 for Health' fits in perfectly with our national health promotion activities and has the potential to become a programme of distinct significance.”
Different from the children, who at least for some time may rest on their laurels, the graded teachers from the pilot project will now attend a refresher course between 14 and 19 November at the Soccer House. They will do so alongside the newly recruited teachers from a further 270 schools around the country. The course will include further teachers from another 20 Windhoek schools that were not part of the pilot project but wishing to learn the “11 for health” too.
A week later, starting on 21 November, a further almost 240 teachers representing the other 12 national regions outside Windhoek will be attending a instructor course under the tutelage of three F-MARC delegates supervising the programme. Two instructors from Mauritius will participate and contribute the specific experiences gained in their chronic disease-ridden country where nationwide implementation is already underway.
At the same time, two prospective teachers of the programme in Colombia and Mexico, where the programme will be implemented in the next months, will also participate to benefit and learn from the Namibian experience. “This knowledge transfer across continents is a particularly enticing aspect of '11 for Health',” said Prof. Dvorak. “As the programme has been initiated and developed here in Africa, its pioneers are now requested to share their knowledge with the rest of the world. '11 for Health' therefore means bringing your experiences and expertise to other countries and continents: from Africa to the world!”
It was this aspect of knowledge sharing by Africans that particularly captivated the Minister of Education: “Show our ability and skills to impart knowledge to others. This no small achievement, but something to be appreciated for the ripple effect it will have on our continent and the world.”
To add national and local spirit and expertise, 12 selected teachers from the Windhoek schools participating in the pilot will assist the training of their colleagues in order to help replicate the programme considering the specificities of the country and its population.
The '11 for Health' fights not only HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, but also those diseases flourishing with increasing wealth such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and heart disease. Football, the one passion that unites all Namibians, is hoped to prove an effective, feasible and low-cost tool in the country’s fight for health.