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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Columnist: Tijjani Usman Dogo

Female students, folic acid in some junior secondary schools in Ghana

The folic acid is believed to have been administered without seeking consent from parents The folic acid is believed to have been administered without seeking consent from parents

This piece is a response to the news going viral on social media, regarding school children in Ghana who are being given some form of medications or tablets in school.

In this era of information overload and countless social media outlets, it is a herculean task to authenticate information coming to your devices uninvited. I usually delete some information immediately after they arrive, but some headlines are difficult to ignore as my curiosity sometimes gets the best of me.

A few weeks ago, there was news going viral on social media that some JSS female students in Kumasi, Ashanti region are being given some type of medication or tablets in school by their teachers. These tablers are said to be folic acid.

Some students who had taken these medications have complained of missing their monthly menstrual period.

No consent was sought either from the students or their families before being given this medication.

Fact or fiction, verifiable or not, such news is hard to ignore. The more I tried to dismiss it, the more questions keep popping up in my mind. So I set out to share my personal view on the matter.

1. So far, the news going viral on social media indicates that school children from JSS are being given some medications in school. 2. The tablets being given are folic acid. 3. The tablets are given every Wednesday. 4. Students who have had the tablets have a complaint of missing their monthly menstrual period. 5 Some bloggers have claimed to have obtained this medication as proof.

What should be our response as a community where this is happening?

We as a community, what should be our response to safeguarding our community?
My approach on this issue is as follows:

1. The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) and the Islamic Medical Association of Ghana (IMAGH) should be notified.

The GMA and IMAGH should start data gathering immediately on some of the identified schools and students who are involved in this saga.
The GMA and IMAGH should obtain the said medication and conduct laboratory research to ascertain the authenticity of the medication.

Questions

2a. Is the medication a folic acid as alleged?

2b. If it is true that the alleged medication is folic acid, why is such medication being given to school children without the consent of their parents? or public education on the matter?

2c. Has there been any clinical, physical, or medical screening done to warrant administration of such medication?

2d. Is the minister of education aware of this initiative?

2e. Does the minister of health know about this medication being given to school children?

2f. Who or where did the school authorities get their instructions to administer this medication?

2g. Is this medication given to our Zongo/ Muslim students or other students are included?

2h. Are there similar cases in other regions?

21. What doses are being administered to the students?

2j. Finally, what is the long-term effect of this medication.

3. Therapeutic efficacy of folic acid

*Folic Acid or antifolates belongs to a class of medications called antimetabolites.

*It is a manufactured version of Folate or vitamin B9.

*it helps the body to produce red blood cells.

*It helps to prevent folate deficiency known as anaemia.

*It helps in the prevention of neural tube defects in pregnant women.

*It helps in the development of an unborn child.

*It protects unborn baby's from developing illnesses such as spina bifida.

4. What is spina bifida?

*Spina bifida is when a baby’s spinal cord is not developing properly in the womb.

*Its symptoms are movement, bladder, and bowel problems.

*It causes fluids in the brain or learning difficulties in children.

Women who want to get pregnant can take folic acid with other supplements before conception and after 12 weeks in pregnancy on the advice of their physician.

Vitamin B9 can be obtained from other natural sources such as spinach, broccoli, sprout, peas, other green vegetables.

5. Clinical test

To determine who needs folic acid, a full blood test is required to ascertain if there is a presence of folate deficiency in the blood cells.

6. Folic acid or not folic acid

6a. What if laboratory test results indicate that the medication is not folic acid as claimed?

6b. What is it then?

6c. What are the properties or ingredients of such medication?

6d. Is't harmful or therapeutic?

The public needs answers to these questions.

7. Recommendations

7a. There should be an outright boycott and peaceful demonstration for this initiative to stop until the issue is dealt with.

Zb. Parents to instruct their children not to take it when offered.

7c. The need for a longitudinal follow-up research of those children who had taken these medications to determine the long-term effect.

7d. Education minister, the health minister, and the Zongo minister should come out to clear the issue in the public interest.