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Mimi Gets Malaria, and Other Fairy Tales

27 Apr

For World Malaria Day I took over my sitemate’s English class to teach a group of 7th graders about malaria. Because we wanted to teach both health and English we put together a reading comprehension lesson using C-Change (a Behavior Change Communication strategy organization)’s storybook for kids about a girl named Mimi who gets sick with malaria.

Reading Mimi's story to the kids

Reading Mimi’s story to the kids

The book was specially formulated for Ethiopian kids with character’s like Bitika and Litika the malarial mosquitos (female anopheles variety of course), and Mimi being told to finish her entire round of medication without sharing with family members (a common problem here and the source of drug resistant and recurring strains). The story went through transmission (Bitika and Litika live in a pond that appeared during rainy season), symptoms (always go the health center if you have a fever!), treatment (take ALL your medicine), and prevention (both bed nets and spraying). Plus we coloured in the pictures and put it on bright construction paper so y’know… it’s cool.

Got some help from Morgan, the English teacher – Peace Corps Ethiopia G7

Got some help from Morgan, the English teacher – Peace Corps Ethiopia G7

Cross sector activities for the win! Here were was our lesson for the day:

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After practicing both listening and reading comprehension we went over some of the details of the health content. A question that came up was whether you could get HIV from a mosquito bite, since they suck your blood. Logical, but luckily (unluckily?) the H in HIV stands for Human so the virus dies inside a mosquito, and they can’t transmit it.

This kid used his science textbook to draw his mosquito

This kid used his science textbook to draw his mosquito

Using what they learned, we had the kids work in groups to make posters about the transmission and prevention of malaria. At the beginning when asked, only 1 student said he had a bed net in his house. At the end, the kids all wanted to know when to get a malaria net for their families (answer- health centers).

World Malaria Day in English and Amharic

World Malaria Day in English and Amharic

In Ethiopia, 68 percent of the country is officially a malaria zone, especially the lowlands. But as global warming contributes to crazier weather and mosquitoes migrating higher, highland areas on the malaria line (like Gondar) are seeing more cases. Days like World Malaria Day remind people that conditions can change, and awareness is the first step in prevention.

Here are the posters the kids came up with. Explanations in the captions:

They loved that book! Left it in the library for the future.

They loved that book! Left it in the library for the future.

Bed Nets are the best prevention
Bed Nets are the best prevention

Working hard!

Working hard!

These kids were gobez! The pond in the bottom has the life cycle of the mosquito while the one house without the net has a sick person, the house with the bed net is cool, and they drew the health center!

These kids were gobez! The pond in the bottom has the life cycle of the mosquito while the one house without the net has a sick person, the house with the bed net is cool, and they drew the health center!

Malaria transmission and prevention

Malaria transmission and prevention

This poster was location specific- Malaria in Gondar! (hence the castles)

This poster was location specific- Malaria in Gondar! (hence the castles)

This mosquito had malaria... it also maybe took some acid

This mosquito had malaria… it also maybe took some acid

Iron Chef Challenge: World Malaria Day

27 Apr
World Malaria Day

World Malaria Day

Iron chef challenge:  You have ten minutes at flag ceremony (morning assembly) to explain malaria prevention to 250 primary school kids in a foreign language with three bed nets, four teachers, and a poster. Secret ingredient: two mosquito cutouts.

Thursday, April 25th, was World Malaria Day. This whole month is Blog About Malaria Month. But the kids don’t care about that, they want to play in the nets.

So how do you get the attention of 250 children in grades 1-8, aged anywhere from 5 years old to 18? Let them play in the nets.

After a brief explanation of the number one disease in North Gondar Zone, and how you get it, we moved straight to prevention. Clock is ticking chef!

The cheapest and easiest way to prevent malaria is to sleep under a bed net. If you have a large family, give preference to pregnant women and young children. But just having a net in your home is not enough.

Choosing three volunteers, I chased them around with a mosquito cutout.  Pro tip: It’s always a good play to make a fool of yourself. This kid below was given a bed net but told not to use it, like many families who leave them unopened.

He got bit! When he travelled off the high rock

He got bit! When he travelled off the high rock

Nets are distributed every three years in this zone, but only to low-lying areas. With global warming, the mosquitoes have started to move higher, to areas not officially deemed “malaria zones.” The misconception still exists that highland areas in Gondar, even a few feet of difference up the mountain, means you won’t get sick.

The second kid was given an opened package, but wrapped himself up like a mummy. So you have a net, but if it’s not hung properly it’s not going to do any good. Sleeping with skin next to a net, the mosquito can still bite through the holes. He found that out the fun way.

Looks comfy in there!

Looks comfy in there!

This clever girl had her teachers “hang” the net up properly. My mosquito wasn’t able to get her.

Bimbee attack!

Bimbee attack!

Time’s almost up chef! Bring in your backup… aka the school director who can translate my bad grammar into something coherent.

Really getting into it

Really getting into it

Phew! There you have it, malaria prevention in ten minutes. But it didn’t stop there, later I co-opted an English class (cross sector learning!) and at the end of the day the biology teacher said he had the kids labeling the parts of the mosquito, using the World Malaria Day theme for science education.

So while doing a bit of malaria prevention awareness for the kids I was able to practice my Amharic, model some active teaching, and motivate other teachers. Not too shabby, chef.

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