Did you learn about trachoma in school?
Photo credit: Sumon Ray for ITI
Did you learn about trachoma in school? At the Tema 1 Primary School in the Mangochi district of Malawi, trachoma lessons are an integral part of the school curriculum.
Some of the students at the Tema 1 Primary School gathered together on a Saturday to share their knowledge about trachoma. One of the most memorable messages about trachoma was “An unclean face is a friend of flies that transmit trachoma.”
Christopher Sumaili, one of the teachers at the Tema 1 Primary School, explained the origins of all this familiarity with trachoma, “In class, we have these lessons about trachoma. We teach our children that after visiting the toilet, they have to come here (tippy tap –a hand washing device made from locally available resources) and wash their hands with the soap so they can avoid flies from landing there…on their eyes.”
Sumaili added that he holds parent-teacher meetings where he tells stories of the importance of practicing proper hygiene and then emphasizes the importance of sharing those stories with other family members.
Ruth Tcheza, a student at the Tema 1 Primary School, proudly shared her excitement about her school’s achievement at a recent contest organized by the national trachoma program for school students in the Mangochi district, “There was a competition at the school…about hygiene… we won the trophy.” After sharing her story, Tcheza brought the trophy from the Head Teacher’s office to pose for a picture with her classmates.
From the demonstrations of schoolmates using tippy taps to the countless WASH posters, one can sense a deep culture of understanding that poor WASH practices increase the likelihood of contracting trachoma.
Institutions such as The Tema 1 Primary School remind us that a commitment to water, sanitation, and hygiene is a commitment to ending trachoma.
Malawi has implemented the WHO-endorsed SAFE strategy through various partnerships with the Blantyre Institute for Community Outreach (BICO), CBM, Heart to Heart, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust, and Sightsavers. Since 2011, ITI (International Trachoma Initiative) has shipped over 16 million doses of antibiotic to Malawi.