UNICEF supports school entrance health screening for 1.5 million children in Iran

30 May 2023
UNICEF Iran/Sayyari/2022

Every child in Iran is required to take the Health and School Readiness Screening Programme as a mandatory pre-requisite for enrolling in grade one of a formal school. The screening programme aims to assess the child’s school readiness as well as their hearing, vision and overall health to identify any support they might need. Annually, more than 1.5 million children in Iran participate in this programme.

Once the programme detects the special needs of children it makes it possible to support them with timely interventions to ensure their developmental growth. It is also used to determine if the child is required to be referred to special schools. Therefore, it is essential to have a quality screening programme and related referral mechanisms to ensure access to inclusive and quality education for children with special needs.

In 2022, during the first and second phases of UNICEF’s support, and as part of a cooperation with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF covered the financial costs of the screening programme for Afghan refugee children, nomad children, and children in disadvantaged areas of Sistan and Balouchestan, Hormozgan, Kerman, and Lorestan provinces. As a result, 97,454 children, including 46,923 girls, benefited from free screening services. The results show that the supported provinces moved up in the ratings of coverage to the top 10 provinces.

UNICEF’s support for this programme and its significant impact on participation in the screening programme, also resulted in increased public financing for the screening programme for the future. A dedicated public budget line has been assigned to the screening programme, by the Planning and Budget Organization, which is evidence of the system’s ability to sustain the results achieved last year.

In its third phase of support to this process and in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MoE), UNICEF equipped the newly established MoE screening centres across the country by procuring 545 laptops with financial support from the Austrian government and UNICEF’s thematic funds for Education and Health. Staff in the screening centres use these laptops for real-time registration of screening data into the national online data system called SIRAT.

This year, through UNICEF support and advocacy, the Ministry of Education successfully expanded the screening programme to 750 centres country-wide and extended the timeframe to the whole year. This significantly increased the reach of this programme in the current scholastic year. Prior to this, the timeline of the screening programme was limited to specific months before the start of the scholastic year.

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