Diabetes is the most common chronic disease in childhood. As the school is one of the first stages of children’s life, and where they spend much of their time, adequate care needs to be provided there. Students have a right to proper care, and this means having teachers with experience and knowledge of diabetes who can provide a safe and supportive environment, conducive to the children’s academic achievement.
The United Nations proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that children are entitled to special care and assistance. Family is the fundamental unit of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members, especially children, who are in need of special care, as specified in The Geneva Declaration, 1924. Article (24) Clause (1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states that:
“States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services.”
There are major impediments for a student with diabetes, due to the lack of access to diabetes care and the lack of experience in school administrations on how to deal with the condition. This can negatively impact the student in several ways:
- Diabetic students may not receive adequate care in the event of an emergency.
- Diabetic students may be exposed to improper treatment.
- Increased student absence from important lessons.
- Failure to involve diabetic students in sports and school trips.
To mitigate against this, there needs to be cooperation between parents, the school administration and specialized health authorities to create an integrated plan for the care of diabetic students.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the rights diabetic students should be able to expect:
- The permanent presence of a nurse or school nurse, in addition to a member of staff who has received training on how to deal with diabetes, and who can blood sugar level during the school day.
- A health team, assigned by the school’s director or principle, and trained by the Qatar Diabetes Association. Members of the health team could in turn train the rest of the school staff.
- The availability of diabetes care tools to the health team.
- Complete educational materials in the schools, with information on helping students and how to deal with cases of a drop or hike in sugar levels, or extreme cases of vomiting etc. to be reviewed annually.
- Being treated the same as fellow classmates.
- For the school canteen to provide healthy meals suitable for diabetic students.
- Diabetic students should be allowed to eat snacks or main meals at times that suit their personal treatment plan, including drinking water and toilet breaks when needed.
- Diabetic students should have the right to engage in school activities and exercises, and to participate in special field trips. Necessary precautions should be taken to ensure their safety.
- A complete report of each diabetic students’ condition.
- A health team of male and female students in each school as an extension to The Brave Club for children with diabetes, in collaboration with the school team of nurses, in addition to Qatar Diabetes Association’s educational center.
The Qatar Diabetes Association believes in the importance of ensuring the rights of children living with diabetes, and that diabetes should not be a barrier to academic achievement. With that in mind, Qatar Diabetes Association launched the Diabetic Students’ Rights initiative in 2005, a program that helps protect and care for these students within the school campus, and ensure they are given the same opportunities and extra-curricular activities as other students.
To that aim, Qatar Diabetes Association works with partners to draw attention to the need to achieve a safe environment for students with diabetes. In cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, the Ministry of Public Health, the Department of Childhood Diabetes at Hamad Medical Corporation and the Primary Health Care Foundation, Qatar Diabetes Association has prepared the guide book Rights and Duties of Students with Diabetes in Schools in the State of Qatar 2015.
Encouragement is the foundation and source of students’ confidence, so school staff need to motivate students with diabetes to test their blood sugar levels in a timely manner, eat snacks on time, and carry out all the necessary procedures to manage blood sugar, including taking insulin. Discretion must also be provided for students wishing to keep their condition private.
Whether or not a child has diabetes should not impact on their academic opportunities and their right to a full, engaged, and complete education.