Improving community health starts with kids: Medical students conduct health education in Uganda’s rural schools
“We covered hygiene, nutrition, and malaria, finishing with a game of mosquito net tag in which students had to run away from the Mzungu mosquitoes into the safety of mosquito nets. The students also enjoyed receiving crayons and hygiene related pictures to color,” says one of the medical students
For three weeks in August of 2012, a group of nine students from the University of Minnesota Medical School volunteered their time at the Uganda Rural Fund organization located just outside of Kyetume, 30 km West of Masaka, Uganda. Having just finished our first year of medical school, we were all excited to put our knowledge to use through putting on medical camps, training village health workers, and educating students in surrounding villages.
Health Education in Ugandan Schools
The first school we visited was Balimanyankya, a primary school with students up to 13 years of age. We were surprised to find around 300 students congregated in the school chapel greeting us in unison exclaiming “You are very welcome”. We covered hygiene, nutrition, and malaria, finishing with a game of mosquito net tag in which students had to run away from the Mzungu mosquitoes into the safety of mosquito nets. The students also enjoyed receiving crayons and hygiene related pictures to color.
The second school we went to was Kyetume primary school. The students looked nice in their uniforms, and us girls were jealous of their adorable bright pink school dresses. We taught the same subjects, and the students showed their excitement and understanding with patterned clapping. To illustrate proper nutrition, we divided the main food groups into “grow foods”, “go foods”, and “glow foods” with associated actions. We then named typical Ugandan foods such as Matooke and had the students identify its food group by illustrating the food group’s action. The students did a great job correctly identifying the food groups while giggling at each other performing the actions. We passed out erasers, crayons, stickers, and bars of soap and the students were very appreciative. The mosquito net game was again a huge success.
Hope Academy, a secondary school composed of students ranging in age from 15 to 22, was the next school we visited. This school is affiliated with URF, and we had been informed that a sexual education talk would be very beneficial. In an effort to allow students to direct the topic of conversation as well as feel comfortable discussing private issues, we split the students in half by gender and had students anonymously write questions. We collected these and were able to successfully create open conversation with the students. This was a great learning experience for ourselves as well as the students.
The final school we visited was Saint Mary’s, a primary school with children as young as 3. We arrived with balls for the children and spent the first hour or so playing. We then had them all line up by age in order to distribute de-worming medication and multivitamins. We were all pleasantly surprised at their ability to swallow pills. We played with the children a while longer before the students sent us on our way with an amazing set of about 7 songs with choreographed dancing.