Once again Women in Action (WiA) teams have gone above and beyond the call of their regular duties – during this month of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, they took time to visit various schools in communities and share much needed awareness on the early warning signs and symptoms of childhood cancer. The feedback and responses, not only from the children, but also from the teachers, showed how much this information is needed and appreciated.
Status High School
The awareness event went well. The Baba who introduced us to the students knows the work of Women in Action through their campaigns against violence towards women and child abuse.
The presentation was well received by the principal who appreciated our visit. Although many students were absent because of recent unrest, those who came benefited greatly which was seen in the quality of questions asked. There were 15 teachers and 200 students present.
Inhlonipho Primary School
We had about 61 people who attended which included community members, school workers and around 18 male and female teachers, including the principal Ms Mofokeng. The school has 1080 learners. The feedback we got from them all was quite positive. They arrived on time, were attentive and were happy to receive the information. Afterwards those who had questions were able to ask them.
Afterwards several teachers and community members came forward to ask questions. One teacher in particular asked for help with one of her grade 4 learners, a 10 year old girl. She suspects that her health problems might be something more serious as she has been missing school for several weeks now. She gave us the mother’s contact details, so we called her the following day and what the mother told us about the complications sounded serious. We called Bara’s CHOC Line. They were helpful and took details of the mother and child and said they would call her to see how they can assist them.
Overall all went very well. All of the 7 counsellors we were happy with how we were welcomed by everyone at the school.
Frank Joubert Primary School
A short presentation was conducted for 43 learners who were attentive to the images shown of the signs and symptoms of children with cancer. Their reactions of screams indicated their shock at seeing their peers with such a sickness. Some were amazed that cancer could cause such an impact in the lives of children. The highlighted points that the WIA team emphasised were the importance of being aware of their body and to speak to their parents if they notice any persistent illness, cuts or bruises that won’t heal, aches and pains that won’t go away; they should never keep quiet if they don’t feel well.
The children’s interaction surprised the teachers and the principal who were present as they participated in our short drama, the hand painting portrait project and accepted our gold ribbons and balloons with so much joy. The children left the presentation with leaflets, which give more information on childhood cancer, and the WIA team is sure that they will pass this information on to their parents/guardians, who will help to spread this awareness in their community.
Peffervile Primary School
The children’s response was good as they interacted, they asked questions and we were able to help them. We had around 100 students.
Tshephang Day Care
We were well received by the teachers and parents, and they were very focused on the video and presentation. We prepared flyers with information about the early signs and symptoms of childhood cancer and also gave them a golden ribbon. They responded very well to the presentation and congratulated us on our initiative. There were 30 parents and educators who attended the presentation.
Thembeka Day Care Centre situated in Hammersdal, a township in Durban, where we talked to 13 caregivers and 150 children. We did a Childhood Cancer Awareness talk where we talked about the signs and symptoms. We shared with the caregivers how to spot signs and symptoms in the children as they always spend the whole day with them.
We also shared that in case of symptoms persisting even after the child has taken medication, they should always advise parents to take the child for a diagnosis so that if it is cancer, treatment can start as early as possible because early detection can save lives.
The caregivers were attentive during the presentation and they were interested to learn more. The owner of the Centre, Mrs Lethiwe, thanked Woman in Action and asked us to come back and give the learners more information on the subject. Later we talked to the children as well. We sang songs with them, played some games, did some exercises with them and gave the children some balloons. The children were very happy.
Name of School: Pfunzo Nditshedza Primary School
Number of educators including workers: 60, Number of learners: 1800
We started by introducing ourselves, where we are from and the work that we do as CHOC volunteers. We also explained the reason why we were there which was to bring awareness to schools during the month of September.
When we were setting up for the awareness, one of the teachers made a comment to another about cancer. She said: “I know this sickness, it kills”. So, this really shows us how important it is to bring this awareness to schools because even some teachers think only about death when it comes to cancer. They are not aware about early signs, treatments etc.
We did the introduction, CHOC – Childhood Cancer Foundation, medical aspects, side effects and emotional impact of childhood cancer.
We explained that when a child is diagnosed with cancer it does not only affect the child and the family, but it also affects the teacher which is why it is so important for them to educate themselves about cancer, because besides being teachers they are also parents. So, when the parents leave their children at school, they trust the teachers not just to teach them but also to take care of them and know them. When they see something wrong with the child, they should be able to help the parent.
When a child is diagnosed with cancer it is not easy for the child so they will need support from family, friends and teachers.
As we have also learned about how families are struggling it was explained to them what the Choc Childhood Cancer Foundation SA is doing, the difference they are making in the lives of these little ones and their families and why this foundation was established. We spoke about the things that come to people’s minds when they hear about cancer. We also explained what cancer is, information about the medical aspects, treatment, side effects and the emotional impact of childhood cancer.
We finished off by thanking the principal for giving us the opportunity to come and talk to them about childhood cancer. She took the opportunity to thank us for coming to the school to bring this awareness to them. She mentioned that indeed they have learned a lot and are looking forward to working with us again in future. They were all happy to have us there. We went to the school with our KAP on – Knowledge, Attitude and Practice.
The day care center has 105 children.
Many people, because of a lack of knowledge, see cancer as a death sentence. Our aim was to bring awareness to the teachers as the children spend most of the day with them. We hoped that by informing the teachers they will help the parents to monitor any warning signs in the children, making them aware that early detection can save a child’s life. The teachers were happy to receive us, and the principal of the center attended our presentation.
She took leaflets we brought to give to the parents and said the teachers will continue sharing the information during lessons with the children.
The children were happy to receive the gifts we had prepared of golden balloons and golden ribbons as a reminder. The principal was happy and supportive of our visit and invited us to come back in future if there is anything else we would like to present.
International Childhood Cancer Awareness month is celebrated in September each year. Gold ribbons are worn to help raise awareness worldwide.
Public awareness of the warning signs of childhood cancer is vital.
Currently, about 1 000 SA children are diagnosed with cancer annually. However, it’s estimated that half of the children with cancer in South Africa, are never diagnosed.
Lack of Awareness of Signs and Facts about Childhood Cancer
This is due to a lack of knowledge regarding the disease and how it presents in children. As a result, many children are diagnosed too late, when the cancer is already in an advanced stage, thus reducing the possibility of successful treatment.
South Africa Survival Rates Could be Higher!!
Greater awareness of the warning signs of childhood cancer could encourage earlier diagnosis and lead to improved outcomes for all ethnic groups.
Childhood Cancer Causes
The causes of cancer in children include genetic and environmental factors playing a dominant role.
Children are still subject to growth spurts within a short period of time, which may result in the cancer spreading faster and more aggressively. This implies that treatment or advice that may work for adults, will not necessarily work for children.
Cancers in children tend to be different from those found in adults, with most of them occurring in the developing cells such as bone marrow, blood, kidneys and nervous system tissue.
In this regard, Women in Action worked to create childhood cancer awareness at two primary schools at Jouberton township in September 2019.
On 3 September we met with the parents of Diphetogo primary school. 63 parents benefited from this meeting as well as the principal of the school. From the questions asked by the parents during the presentation, it was noted that many were unaware of the signs and symptoms of cancer in children and were glad to be informed.
On 6 September we revisited Diphetogo primary school where we presented to the learners and teachers present. Around 700 leaners benefited from the information presented and so did their teachers and staff who were present.
Comment from the Deputy Principal, Mr. Sello Moabi, was that he used to think cancer affected only the white race but seeing that it is not the case, it is time that everyone is aware and go for checkups if any symptoms are detected.
One of the teachers from Diphetogo primary, Mmamitta Mokena, commented that she was glad to know of the signs and symptoms of cancer in children so she can help if she notices any of them in the learners and even in the community. She can be of help because she is informed.
On 3 September we visited Boitumelo primary school where we brought awareness to around 400 learners and teachers present. The learners demonstrated that they have learned as they were able to answer questions regarding the symptoms they should watch out for. Mr. Tshepo Ngobeng who is the vice-principal at the school mentioned he was grateful for the awareness we shared with the learners and the teachers. Cancer is a difficult subject, but we made it appealing to the learners and they were able to pay attention to our presentation where we had one person wearing a lion costume. He complimented us on the good work being done to reach out to their community.
Miss Thandi who is a teacher at Boitumelo Primary school mentioned as well that she had learnt especially about symptoms of the eyes which she didn’t know before and now will be able to notice in her children and others in her community, as well as advising others that when they see such symptoms, they should not ignore them but seek medical help.
In conclusion, as we were spreading childhood cancer awareness in our community, we noted many are not informed, or rely on false information which results in many children not receiving help in time or no help at all. We therefore encouraged everyone who received information from us to inform others so that more children may be helped, and survival cases may increase.
We visited two schools to present our Childhood Cancer Awareness.
We visited Tiisetso primary school on two different days, giving our awareness presentation. The school has about 650 learners. We went on Monday, 9 September, to speak to the senior students and 12 teachers and again on Friday 13 September, to speak to the junior students.
The school requested this as they said the children’s understanding is different in different age groups. The feedback was very positive. The teachers asked most of the questions and it showed they were paying attention. The children also had questions and we had one case of a student where we had to speak with her parent to help her.
We chose another school which was in a remote area. It’s a farm school where they have a total of 56 children at the school. The name of the school is Mabathe intermediate school. The welcome was very warm, and the learners were so well behaved. They really enjoyed it as they don’t have many visitors because of their location. Our aim for this awareness was to reach them and open the discussion about cancer, promoting understanding about cancer in the community as it’s considered a taboo in most places.
Kiriyatswane Secondary school
It is a school with 1200 students and 36 teachers.
The students and the teachers paid attention during the awareness presentation and they thought cancer is something remote from them, especially the students. So as they read and heard about the symptoms they understood that they will need to seek medical help soon and not ignore the problem.
The teachers also appreciated the information with the principal saying: “It’s not usual that people like us who are doing the work of God also take time to involve themselves in the community giving such important knowledge to help them as knowledge is power.”