IMPACT OF MALNUTRITION ON STUDENTS ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE IN PRIMARY SCHOOL PUPILS
Background of the study
Food is one of the basic needs of man. Our body needs food to do its work. Food is vital to life and may be any solid or liquid substance which when eaten and digested by the body, provides it with necessary materials to enable it grow, replace worn-out and damaged parts and to function normally. The human body is like a complex piece of machinery in that it is prone to faults and weaknesses if it is poorly maintained. This can happen if the daily food intake is in any unbalanced form. Again, any nutritious substance that people or animal eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth (Wikipedia dictionary.com, 2011). In essence, food is made up of nutrients.
Food and nutrition is one of the branches of Home Economics which deals with food and its nutrients. It includes food processing, presentation, food preparation, meal management and services. Lack of adequate intake of these nutrients lead to poor nutritional needs on the academic performance among the primary school children, in particular primary six pupils in rural areas.
Anazonwu, (2003) pointed out that the wealth of a nation depends to a large extent on the health of these citizens. She further said children are the future generation who are expected to grow up in good health, productive adults, likewise are able to make a full contribution towards the economic and social progress of their country. In other words, health is wealth.
Pyke (2012) says that poor diet and disease actually result from underlying causes related to insufficient access to food by families or household. Inadequate caring practices provide vulnerability of the members of the family, in particular, children may be exposed to poor nutrition. It is necessary to identify in a specific situation what constitute the major constraints to providing adequate access to food, to health services and to certain extent education.
According to the World Summit for Children (2000), each day, 60,000 children die from poor nutrition and disease, including acquired immune deficiency syndrome AIDS, from lack of clean water, inadequate sanitation and from the effects of the drug problem. in children, poor nutrition is synonymous with growth failure.
Looking at the adverse effect of poor nutrition on the health, growth and education of the pupils as well as the brighter future of the nations, socio economics development, this study, therefore, become necessary to attempt to uncover the negative impact of poor nutrition on primary six pupils in Nigeria with a view to awakening the consciousness of parents, teachers, government and other stakeholders in education.
Various child psychologists had advocated that growth and development of a child depends on the nutrition of mother before and after birth. The provision of adequate nutrition aims at promotion of good health recognized as constituting the found action of proper growth of children. Various researchers assert that, a child’s fastest growth in physical, mental and socio emotional characteristics take place during this age and children are found to be most vulnerable to environmental influence (Ake and Ofodu, 2011). More traumatizing is that growth deficiencies that occur during preschool years are difficult and sometimes impossible to reverse. Following this argument then, attention to raise preschool enrolment and quality due to its importance should provide numerous opportunities focusing in raising the nutrition and health of 0 to 6 years age group. It’s clear that improved nutrition and health are seen as necessary conditions for increasing enrolment, retention and learning achievements in preschoolers ( Daniel, 2008).
In developing World like Africa for instance, malnutrition results from deficiencies and most often as a result poverty. The evidence is unequal in demonstrating that short stature school children are product largely resulting from growth retardation in early childhood combined with environmental factors relating as a result to poverty is an indicator of risk of poor school performance. In Nigeria, the issue of nutrition and health of children has been of great concern. UNESCO (2005) reported that the Nigeria government has many years’ of experience in running programs that address the educational, health needs of the school age children this include policies, extended access to different levels of schooling, Malnurtrition by the communities and government in arid and semi-arid areas.
Effects of nutrition and health during early years of life are potentially capable of having long term consequences that can affect a child’s history of formal education. Children’s readiness for school is determined in part by a child’s physical development, aptitudes and motivation to learn. A number of prevalent nutrition and health conditions are shown to affect school participation and educational outcomes. Infant mortality rate in Nigeria in 2006 was 76% where children died directly because of malnutrition. The survey found out that up to six months of age, Nigerian children grow well. Thereafter, apparently growth starts to slow down. This points a glooming picture especially towards the future of ECD (Early Childhood Development), as it is true that this is a slow growth and is prevalent within the preschool system hence has serious developmental implications.
Children are the future of any society. For this reason, children should be a starting point in any society that emphasizes human development. It is the children whose individual growth, development and society contribution will shape the future of the world. The education of children in Nigeria has become the primary importance to educators, parents and society in general resulting in the involvement of numerous related philosophies. Many institutions and government bodies have often ignored the importance of child health and nutrition and can be rampaged for improved children’s performance.
There are many debates about factors that contribute to students’ lack of concentration in class during the teaching and learning process. This is recognized when students leave schools being unable to read and write effectively. This chapter will review literatures on the impact of poor dieting on students’ ability to concentrate and the initiatives used by schools to address students’ poor dieting.
On his hierarchical list of basic needs, the theorists Abraham Maslow (1943) illustrated that food is the first basic need that mankind must satisfy in order to survive. Martin, (2013) and the World Health Organization (WHO), both agreed that good nutrition is the intake of food considered in relation to the body’s dietary needs and combined with regular physical activity – is a cornerstone of good health.
Chen (2014) outlined that many of the widely available and popular foods in schools today are actually hindering children’s abilities to learn as they are laden with sugars, caffeine, chemicals, and sodium. “Many popular menu items are leaving kids tired, unfocused, jittery, and sick.” “Kids who don’t get proper nutrition – that is eating too few calories or eating an unbalanced diet often experience fatigue, according to KidsHealth.org. They may exhibit mental fatigue and problems concentrating at school”
“A child’s diet will affect his mood in a positive or negative way. Mood changes can affect the child’s ability to concentrate at home or at school.” The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) further reported that “poor breakfast habits influence children’s memory recall and affect the amount of errors they make. Children who eat breakfast tend to be able to concentrate more, and they act in a calmer way. Overall, those who eat breakfast have a more adequate nutrient intake. Thus, lack of nutrients affects their ability to concentrate.
According to Rodriguez (2014) “Even short-term hunger can adversely affect a child’s ability to learn.” Concentration, critical thinking, creativity, and even their social abilities may be negatively affected. Instead of focusing on class activities; they may also be too distracted by pangs of hunger. He further stated that some students who do not have enough money for food attend classes with an empty stomach or choose junk food as an alternative.
This argument is further substantiated by McCarthy (2014), who stated that the majority of the teachers surveyed reported that “most or a lot of their students rely on school meals as a primary source of nutrition”. Also among the findings, teachers associated poor dieting with the ability to concentrate on schoolwork, behavioural issues and an increased likelihood to report feeling sick. McCarthy (2014) further stated that, one teacher quoted in the study said that students are facing a “lack of ability to ignore those hunger pangs” and that they are “concentrating on how soon until lunch rather than on learning how to read.”
Initiatives taken by schools and corporate entities were highlighted in an article entitled ‘Primary school feeding programme boosted’ published in the Jamaica Observer on February 7, spoke to business entities like Sandals and Beaches Resorts in Negril, Westmoreland assisting primary schools within their environs to boost their school feeding programmes. The article also pointed to Sandals’ planting crops including vegetables and herbs.
The author continued to outline that throughout the year, the programme will be assessed to determine its viability and also to facilitate the addition of new crops to enhance the meal options at the different institutions. The author highlighted in the article, Sandals/Beaches team providing Esher Primary School with seeds and seedlings, as well as clearing the area, which was overrun with shrubs, preparing the land and working with several students to plant the vegetables.
Statement of the problem
Nutrition has been seen as crucial to the child’s physical, emotional and cognitive development. Food has been acknowledged as life and a power in activating people’s life as well as supporting various aspects of child development and that is depended upon correct amount and quality (Omago 2003). This fact has not been fully embraced within preschools in Ikere Local government area. Most of these schools receive children from disadvantaged households within. These children have no guarantee of daily meals due to their poor socio economic background. Balanced diet is necessary because it builds, protects and repairs the body. Human beings require sufficient food for sustainability and functionality. The problem of malnutrition and its effects on brain development, physical and intellectual functioning has tremendous implications. As a result, many children end up experiencing stunted growth and development.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of malnurtion on performance of children in preschool in Ikere Local government area.
The study was guided by the following objectives:
- To establish the extent to which school malnurtirion affects performance of children in preschool.
- To determine the influence of food served to children on academic performance.
- To investigate the relationship between the quality of food and academic performance.
The following research questions guided the study:
- To what extent does malnurtirion affects performance of children in preschool?
- To what extent does the frequency of food served to the children influence their academic performance?
- How does the quality of food served to the Primary School influence their academic performance?
Significance of the Study
The study sought to generate useful information that may be of great value to education policy makers, health officials, Early Childhood and care education teachers and parents at all levels. It is expected to contribute towards enhancement of nutrition for children. The research may also assist the Ministry of Education (MoE) and Ministry of Health (MoH) in improving the feeding programmes in preschools.
Limitations of the study
The study anticipated some difficulties in that some small sample of primary school in Ikere Local Government Area plus the use of interviews and questionnaires instruments for the study led to the loss of crucial information, since large samples and other key instruments would have added some interesting input. The researcher dealt with respondents from different groups. Therefore the researcher involved interpreters in order to achieve the right information.
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