The students at St Alban’s Primary prefer to drink water more than anything else.
In fact, when the boys and girls of the St James-based institution are feeling thirsty they quickly find the water-cooler, a tap, or buy bottled water, or reach into their school bags for the water they brought from home.
Hundreds of bottled water are sold at the school weekly.
According to principal Wendine Prince, the students do not have other choices since the school banned the sale of carbonated beverages in 2016 when she took up the leadership position. Two brands of juices that have low sugar content are only sold on Thursdays.
“When I came here, what I observed was that children were eating very unhealthily. At break time you would see them with all types of sodas, and all types of sweet snacks.
“It bothered me because if we do not take care of our children’s health now what will happen to Barbados’ future is that we will have an unproductive society because most of the time people will be ill.
“So I decided at the beginning of the school year in 2016-2017 that we are going to stop selling any sodas, or juices which are just as unhealthy as sodas if they are loaded with sugar,” she said.
Prince recalled that when she broke the news to teachers at the school that only bottled water would be sold they told her that students would not respond well to the new development since they were accustomed to sweet drinks.
“But when we implemented it in 2016, a few weeks after the janitor came back and said ‘Ms Prince, the children are purchasing the water very well.’ And I said to her ‘it would happen because you are now changing the culture’.
“So once you start to change the culture, eventually children realize this is what is happening at the school. There are no other alternatives, so we drink water. At times we would sell mauby, and the mauby wasn’t selling as well as the water because they had started getting accustomed to the water,” she said.
The principal said that after realizing that not all students had the finances to purchase water daily, she approached an old scholar, Wendy Alleyne, about purchasing a water cooler.
The school is now in process of acquiring another water cooler, due to an overwhelming response from students to the first one.
“Our objective is to have a water-cooler on each block for the children. Children will change how they eat if we the adults make sure that we are providing them with healthy alternatives. There is a parent who is a nutritionist and I have asked her to provide us with a list of healthy alternatives to the snacks that we were selling to the children. She provided us with that list and we are now working on changing our offerings to the children concerning snacks”.
The school is now selling fruits to students on particular days, and according to Prince the response to that initiative has also been overwhelming.
The principal said she believes that the school has a greater responsibility than simply teaching academics. She stressed that students must also be taught how to live healthy lifestyles.
“It is not the Ministry of Health. We have to lead the role as teachers and we too have to model the behaviour. I have implemented an exercise programme at the school and we also push athletics.
“We bought a whole set of skipping ropes and we realize some students can’t skip. In the past, skipping was something that everybody could do, but not now. So we are promoting healthy movement and eating because the two must go together,” Prince said. (AH)