By Dr. Shirinder Kaur, School Doctor, Malaysia
As a school doctor in Malaysia, I have visited schools in the interior, accessible only by boats and through long treks in the forest. Some Malaysian school children walk for miles each day, navigating through dangerous terrain to get an education. As a government school doctor, I did general check ups , developmental checks and monitored for any learning difficulties or delays.
Once I moved to private practice, I worked as a Child GP. I also did training for school nurses and teachers in private schools and International Schools. I worked closely with the Director of Boarding to ensure that the boarding students enjoyed optimal health. I liaise with the school psychologist on suspected child abuse cases. I also did CPR training for all the staff and worked closely with the school chefs to ensure that the meals were nutritious , healthy and prepared in a sanitary manner.
My work as a School Doctor is fulfilling . I love being in schools. I feel the school plays a very important role in helping a child fulfill their academic goals. For this, a healthy body and mind is the most important thing.
The pandemic has had a devastating effect on school children with the closures of schools and we have seen a rise in mental health problems particularly in the younger age group.
My work as a school doctor is to address this and bridge the gap. Mental health issues are still a taboo in asian societies and many children suffer in silence.
The only way this can change is through education. Teachers and school nurses should be trained to look for clues and pick upon what is really going on with a child.
For instance, a child who is depressed may not tell you he or she is depressed but may present with physical symptoms like a tummy ache or headache. A proper history and examination is important when assessing a child.
Asking questions about the home environment is also crucial in getting a clear picture of a child’s wellbeing.
With the correct training and guidance , school nurses, psychologists,chefs and teachers can play a holistic role in ensuring each child fulfills their potential.