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To explore the perceptions of educators from the Western Cape Province about the feasibility of implementing South African food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG) in the national curriculum of primary schools.
Combined quantitative and qualitative methods. We report on the quantitative component.
Twelve public primary schools of different socio-economic status in three education districts of the Western Cape: Metro Central, Metro East and Cape Winelands.
Educators (n 256) participated in the self-completed questionnaire survey.
Educators assessed that FBDG were appropriate to South African schoolchildren (94%), could be used as an education tool (97%) and fill gaps in the current curriculum about healthy dietary habits (91%). Besides Life Orientation, FBDG could be taught in other learning areas from grades 3 to 7 (9–13 years old). Important barriers to implementing FBDG in the curriculum were educators’ workload (61%), insufficient time (46%), learners’ disadvantaged background (43%) and educators’ lack of knowledge (33%). Other approaches to teach children about FBDG included linking these to the National School Nutrition Programme (82%), school tuck shops (79%), parent meetings (75%), school nutrition policy (73%) and school assembly (57%). Educators in high-income schools perceived that learners’ lifestyle was significantly worse (P < 0·001) and that tuck shops and the school assembly were the best means to teach pupils about FBDG (P < 0·001 and P < 0·05).
Implementing FBDG in the national school curriculum is seen as important together with optimizing the school physical environment. Key factors required for successful implementation in the curriculum are sufficient educational materials, adequate time allocation and appropriate educator training.
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