Teach them young- A sustainable approach to cholera prevention

Teach them young- A sustainable approach to cholera prevention

Teach them young- A sustainable approach to cholera prevention

Teach them young- A sustainable approach to cholera prevention

Nestled on the outskirts of Blantyre district, Ndirande Hill primary school stands as a beacon of hope for its 1,666 learners. It is surrounded by weathered and corrugated houses. Many of the students’ families struggle to make ends meet in their daily lives. The Cholera outbreak is another burden to grapple. However, amidst these challenging circumstances, a remarkable milestone has been achieved through film-based education on cholera prevention.

In June 2023, Ndirande Hill primary was selected as one of fourteen schools to participate in video filming sessions focused on educating learners about cholera prevention. This unique opportunity exposed children to a different perspective of society. Broadening their horizons and encouraging them to think creatively when tackling problems.

The impact of the film sessions was evident when the Blantyre District Health Team (DHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) returned to Ndirande Hill a week later to assess the progress made. Ellen Lenato, a 13-year-old class monitor in Standard 6, and Francis Banda, a 15-year-old aspiring teacher in Standard 7, eagerly shared their experiences.

Lenato spoke passionately about the lessons she learned from the films, stating, “These shows taught us how to take care of ourselves and protect against cholera.” She also credited the films for empowering her as a class monitor. She now consistently advises her classmates to wash their hands every morning, after visiting the restroom, and before eating.

Francis Banda, initially apprehensive about sharing his experience, found solace in recounting the captivating moments from the films. Beaming with joy, he exclaimed, “We enjoyed the dancing and the characters in the films!” Recounting a key lesson, he added, “After a male character ate cold baked meal (mandasi) without washing his hands after open defecation, he unknowingly put the entire town at risk of cholera. It taught us the importance of showing visitors the toilets to avoid open defecation. As students, we are now actively avoiding activities that endanger everyone’s health.”

Jane Chirwa, the headmistress of Ndirande Hill, expressed her gratitude to WHO for facilitating this transformative intervention. She observed a significant increase in handwashing habits among students, as exemplified by Lenato and Banda. “I’m pleased to see that most students now wash their hands with soap, even without reminders,” she remarked.

The film intervention, supported by WHO in collaboration with the Contingency Fund for Emergencies (CFE), showcased two films in each of the 14 schools situated in Blantyre’s cholera hotspot districts. These films highlighted risky practices associated with cholera transmission while providing strategies to prevent its spread. The inclusion of music and dancing entertained the young learners while capturing their attention and emphasizing essential practices.

Chrissy Banda, the district’s Senior Health Promotion Officer, extended gratitude to WHO for organizing the filming sessions in priority hotspot areas. “We would like to thank WHO for their assistance in conducting these film shows in schools, especially during a time when Blantyre is struggling to contain the cholera outbreak,” Chrissy expressed.

Ms. Lilian Lijoni, the WHO public health officer, addressed the students, urging them to practice handwashing and maintain cleanliness. “Remember to always wash your hands with soap before handling or eating food. Ensure that meals are prepared thoroughly and protected from flies. To prevent cholera, drink water from treated and safeguarded sources,” she advised.

Through film-based education, Ndirande Hill primary school has witnessed a remarkable transformation in cholera prevention practices. The empowering and engaging nature of these sessions has not only improved hygiene habits but has also instilled a sense of responsibility and agency among the students. The ripple effect of their newfound knowledge and enthusiasm for cholera prevention is evident beyond the school walls. It outreaches their families and communities.

As the success story of Ndirande Hill spreads, neighbouring schools and districts have expressed interest in implementing similar film-based educational initiatives. The impact on student engagement and behavior change has sparked a movement towards using innovative approaches to tackle public health challenges.

The transformative power of film-based education on cholera prevention at Ndirande Hill primary school serves as a testament to the potential of human-interest stories.  It captures the attention, imagination and memory of young learners. This approach not only educates; it inspires and empowers them to become agents of change.

With continued support from organizations like WHO and collaborative efforts of local communities, film-based education has the potential to revolutionize health education. Contributing to a healthier and more informed society. As Ndirande Hill primary school and other institutions continue to embrace innovative teaching methods, the future looks brighter for the next generation as they take charge of their health and well-being.

In this inspiring journey, the story of Ndirande Hill primary school stands as a shining example of how education, when coupled with creativity and a human touch, can pave the way for a healthier and more resilient future for all.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – Malawi.