On this page, we feature testimonials that highlight some of the challenges that children with diabetes face in the school environment and how a project like KiDS can help overcome them and promote healthy lifestyles to prevent type 2 diabetes.
Lucas San Pedro (Argentina)
Teacher living with type 1 diabetes and IDF Young Leader in Diabetes
Diabetes is not a topic broadly talked about in schools, unless one of the students has it. Most teachers have only heard the name in passing and wouldn’t really know what to do if they met someone with the condition. The same goes for most students; they have some knowledge of type 2 diabetes because one of their grandparents has it but they don’t imagine one of their classmates could have diabetes as well.
Most schools I know don’t go out of their way to train teachers to deal with students with diabetes, unless an organisation offers to do so. Even then, many schools decline the opportunity. The reality is that unless a teacher takes the time to learn about diabetes, there is usually not enough information given to school staff.
This is a shame because schools are great places to provide information about diabetes. One example would be promoting a healthy lifestyle to prevent type 2 diabetes later in life. Many schools already have healthy diet programmes so all that would be necessary is to explain the connection between diet and type 2 diabetes. This also applies to physical activity, something already done in all schools in Argentina.
School environments can often be very challenging for students with type 1 diabetes. Lack of knowledge about the condition causes a range of problem situations that could be avoided if teachers and other staff had better access to quality training and information. Many students with diabetes are not allowed to check their blood glucose, drink something in the case of a hypo or use insulin inside the classroom. Many are also bullied and mocked by other students.
Children with diabetes need to feel safe and comfortable with their condition so they can take good care of themselves. This is not possible if they spend most of their day under the care of people who are not properly equipped to help and assist them. Most teachers are probably willing to help but schools need to give them the tools to do so.
For all these reasons, I think governments should adapt diabetes care and awareness programmes to the national school curriculum. A project like KiDS is a great tool for teachers to learn and help children with diabetes to be open about their condition. In schools where no one has diabetes, the information provided by KiDS would help school staff to welcome a new student with diabetes with open arms. Parents and families would also be more confident dropping off their children at school, knowing that steps were taken to ensure their safety.
Dr. Luciana Sardinha (Brazil)
NCD Surveillance Coordinator, Ministry of Health Brazil
Type 2 diabetes and obesity have increased substantially over the last decade, affecting more and more children and youth each year. Governments need to address this problem by targeting the environment where they spend most of their times: school.
School plays a key role in the development of infants and teens by contributing to their behaviours and beliefs. Thus, a programme for students focused on promoting healthy lifestyles and the prevention of type 2 diabetes and obesity is necessary. The KiDS Programme represents a successful model of diabetes education and prevention which could be easily replicated around the world.
Roxana Vizcaíno (Ecuador)
Roxana shares her perspective as the mother of a boy living with type 1 diabetes in the school environment.
Sergio Jaramillo Vizcaíno (Ecuador)
Sergio (9 years old) shares his perspective of living with type 1 diabetes in the school environment.
Travis France (South Africa)
Student living with type 2 diabetes and IDF Young Leader in Diabetes
I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at the age of 19, during my second year in university. Looking back on my high school years, and even in university, there was a lack of regular and understandable information about diabetes. I learned about the types of diabetes when I was in the 9th grade, and before that, I got basic knowledge of the condition from family members who lived with it. That was five years before my diagnosis.
I had a friend living with type 1 diabetes, who knew what to do and had told her friends. They were understanding and had an idea of what to do if something happened. I cannot say as much for school staff, but they were friendly and helpful and looked out for their students.
I did the same as my friend when I was diagnosed. I told my friends first and then my lecturers and other staff members. They were very understanding and curious to know more about my experience.
I think the KiDS programme would have definitely changed my whole diabetes journey. It would improve the way people see, hear and know about the condition. It should be compulsory in schools, especially if you have a family history of diabetes. Preparing those who are more at risk and keeping at least one family member informed will make a difference.
Sarah Biyinzika (Uganda)
Student living with type 1 diabetes and IDF Young Leader in Diabetes
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in secondary school at the age of 14.
Despite noticeable diabetes signs and symptoms like sudden weight loss, excess thirst and frequent urination, school nurses couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. They gave me painkillers and vaginal creams instead. This went on for months, until I was found unconscious in my bed. All of this could have been avoided if the nurses had had knowledge about diabetes and how to help a child with diabetes-related signs.
I certainly believe I would have had a better experience if a project like KiDS had existed when I was at school. My fellow students didn’t quite understand my condition and assumed I had HIV because I had lost a lot of weight in the months prior to my diagnosis. Once they saw me injecting insulin, the rumors turned to pity remarks. The school staff were no different and often confused type 1 diabetes with type 2 diabetes.
I have had a number of bad experiences during my student years, but the worst happened when I was at university. I was going in for an exam, when the supervisor noticed my glucometer. Despite my numerous explanations about why it was essential for me, he would not let me access the exam room with it. After about an hour, I started getting signs of low blood glucose (hypoglycemia). I explained to him how I was feeling and asked to be excused to treat it, which he refused once again. Next thing I remember I was at the university sick bay. I would have died if my friends hadn’t explained to the nurse that I had diabetes and needed glucose.
Children living with diabetes go through lots of hardships at school. For my Young Leaders in Diabetes project, “Disarming Diabetes Daily”, I want to address the lack of adequate information in schools that causes, among other things, discrimination, stigma, and non-appropriate food options. I plan on using the KiDS information pack for my project, to promote empathy among school staff and students and create a better experience for children living with diabetes in schools.
In order to participate at school and be treated in the same way as others, children living with diabetes need people around them (like school staff and fellow students) to know more about diabetes and how to best support them. I, therefore, urge the Ugandan government to prioritize diabetes education in schools so that children living with the condition can live a normal life and reach their full potential.