Senior primary learners have created striking murals and artworks saying NO to tobacco through a Schools Mural Art Competition that forms part of the National Department of Health (DOH) ‘Sibo Manqoba!’ tobacco education initiative. The DOH joined forces with government departments, health and advocacy organisations to roll out the campaign, which aims to raise awareness of tobacco and e-cigarette harms, including harm to the environment, a key theme of World No Tobacco Day this year.
Teams of learners from Grade 5-7 in selected schools were asked to produce artwork in the form of murals or other creative pieces. The theme of each entry needed to focus on tobacco harm; why quitting tobacco makes you a winner; or how tobacco influences your school community and environment. Participating schools have each designated four student ambassadors and a lead educator for the project to represent the school as spokespeople and anti-tobacco youth advocates.
The winning finalists include Sharonlea Primary in Randburg, Park Primary School in Lenasia and Zimbambele Park Primary School in Soweto.
Each of these winning schools will be awarded R10,000 towards a nominated wishlist of needs. The overall winner will be announced on Friday 3 June at an event that forms part of a week of activities marking World No Tobacco Day on 31 May, including education events and clean up initiatives at each of the schools during the week.
Student ambassadors and the educator from the winning school will be inducted as Tobacco Control Champions, a programme championed by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and led by the African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA) in Africa. They will further be inducted as South African Tobacco Free Youth Forum (SATFYF) advocates.
Sibo Manqoba is delivered in partnership with Protect our Next partner organisations including the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS), the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HFSA) and the South African Tobacco Free Youth Forum (SATFYF). It is further supported the Department of Environmental Health (DoEH), the City of Tshwane and the City of Johannesburg.
“Sibo Manqoba means ‘we are winners’. We’re calling on South Africans to conquer tobacco and win the battle against the debilitating health and environmental impacts tobacco has on our nation throughout its lifecycle,” says Dr Tshimi Lynn Moeng-Mahlangu, Chief Director: Health Promotion, Nutrition, Oral Health in the Department of Health.
Dr Moeng-Mahlangu says she has been impressed by the response from participating schools. “It has been amazing to how the children express the dangers of tobacco through artwork. Through this creative process, we hope that learners, educators and the broader communities are becoming more aware of the risks of tobacco and nicotine products and the importance of the new Tobacco Control Bill. Active, educated communities are so important in the fight against tobacco and we look forward to continuing with tobacco education initiatives in other communities across South Africa,” concludes Dr. Moeng-Mahlangu.
The campaign aims to have schools focus on maintaining a smoke-free environment and developing pupil’s knowledge, attitudes and skills in decision-making around smoking and e-cigarettes to better protect entire school communities. The Schools Pledge commits the school to have clear policies on maintaining a smoke-free school environment, to actively monitor this, to display educational material and signage to create a positive visual message and to provide age-appropriate education for children and staff.
Educators and community leaders have welcomed these initiatives. “This competition, the schools pledge and the education days have been great ways to engage the whole school and get vital messages across. The mural will remain visible for all to see and children will continue to share the message with their families and communities,” says Judy Ayres, Principal of Sharonlea Primary School. “We will continue our education initiatives into the future and we hope that more schools will be able to get involved.”
“All members of the school community have the right to work and learn in a smoke free environment,” says Simo Xaba of the Department of Environmental Health, eThekwini Municipality. “Smoke-free school sites and non-smoking staff provide positive role models for children and young people and contribute to the development of a healthy school environment.”
Dr Sharon Nyatsanza, Deputy Director of the National Council Against Smoking, says that to be most effective, school-based programs must target young persons before they initiate tobacco use. “It is vital to reach younger children before they start smoking. More than 80% of smokers smoked their first cigarette in their teens, and most smokers wish they had never started. Second-hand smoke also increases the risk of many diseases for children, such as cancers, respiratory diseases and ear infections,” says Nyatsanza. “If we can make children fully aware of the risks, they can be better prepared for peer pressure and temptation, as well as understanding their right to be in a smoke-free environment.”
Nyatsanza says smoking remains prevalent in South Africa, which has a big influence on young people. The Tobacco Atlas released in May by Vital Strategies and the University of Illinois Chicago says tobacco remains a global epidemic, with global progress is threatened by growing smoking rates among children aged 13 to 15 in many countries. Youth tobacco use increased in at least 63 of 135 countries surveyed, and more than 50-million 13 to 15-year-olds smoke cigarettes or use smokeless tobacco products.
“Many of the children would have parents or relatives who smoke, normalising smoking behaviour,” says Nyatsanza. “The tobacco industry also spends billions of dollars each year to find ways to show smoking as exciting and glamorous. Tobacco use is also shown in movies, television programmes, video games and online. E-cigarette and other high-tech electronic vaping devices are a new influence, with flavours and advertising that appeals to youth. These devices are easy to get, easy to disguise, and incorrectly perceived as safe. New users quickly become addicted to nicotine, which can be a pathway to smoking.”
Nyatsanza says research shows that many children and adolescents do not understand the nature of tobacco and nicotine addiction and are unaware of, or underestimate, the important health consequences of tobacco use. “We believe school programs designed to prevent tobacco use could be one of the most effective strategies available to reduce tobacco use and can make a substantial contribution to the health of the next generation.”
For help to stop smoking, smokers can reach out to the National Council Against Smoking QUITLINE: 011 720 3145 or WhatsApp 072 766 4812
The Cancer Association of South Africa runs eKick Butt, a unique online smoking cessation programme https://www.ekickbutt.org.za/
Available for interview:
Dr Sharon Nyatsanza, Deputy Director, National Council Against Smoking
Dr Tshimi Lynn Moeng-Mahlangu, Chief Director: Health Promotion, Nutrition, Oral Health in the Department of Health.
Lorato Mahura, National Department of Health: Health Promotion
Media contact for Protect our Next:
Connect Media for CART Agency
Tel: 084 3510560