Today, with the help of four PCV friends, the mural project that my counterpart and I have been working on is finally completed! The project, funded by an umbrella grant written for malaria work, was more extensive yet more rewarding than I had surmised.
The first step was to determine a highly visible location for the mural. Considering that Maganga Primary School is very close to the main market and directly next to a football pitch, we chose the school as the perfect spot. My counterpart and I then spoke with the headmaster about teaching malaria lessons to accompany the mural. In addition, we discussed how the wall could be altered because at that point, all of the buildings had uneven bricks which would not be ideal for painting. Although our budget didn’t include cement, we decided we could make it work if the school committee would be able to help provide labor and sand to plaster the wall. A week later, the committee, my counterpart and I worked together to mix cement and plaster the wall. The cement was mixed into water & sand on the ground and then adhered to the wall with some construction tools we borrowed from Gift’s friend’s friend. The women in the committee even made us tea!
The next step (I thought) was to paint the cement white. After using an entire liter and only partially covering one small area, we decided that the cement was too absorptive and it would need a base of lime first. (Another expensive cost outside of our budget). After procuring it in town 20km away, we then did a base of lime and returned the next day to cover it with white paint.
During the following week, Gift and I taught malaria lessons to grades 5-8. It was my first time teaching at the primary school and I definitely gained a respect for the teachers. Each class had about 80 or 90 students jammed into a American-sized classroom. Surprisingly, the students were attentive and well behaved. We covered malaria transmission, symptoms, prevention, and treatment through what I think was an interactive and fun lesson. The students seemed to know the basics about malaria so it was cool to get more in-depth about the mosquito life stage and to answer questions about things like drug stock-outs. At the end, I asked the kiddos to draw ideas for the mural. What will you be doing to prevent malaria in your homes, I asked. I then took photos of the best pictures and videos of children explaining how to prevent malaria. (I’m hoping to make a malaria video featuring Maganga residents!)
The following week, I designed the mural and created the key messages I wanted to share. I then went to the school and sketched out the image for four hours as hundreds of children gathered around to watch. When I was done, I asked them to read the penciled messages aloud and made sure they were clear.
On Friday, three of my friends came from nearby districts to complete the last step. We painted from 5:30-11am on Saturday and 7:30-11am today. Most people that stopped by seemed to be very impressed with our work, and of course, the children loved watching. I think it turned out beautifully (shout out to my painter friends!) and I hope it will be a constant reminder to the students to protect themselves against malaria! In addition, I hope community members who see the mural will also learn from it.
The mural reads as following:
EVERYONE IS AT RISK FOR MALARIA
USE KNOWLEDGE AS A WEAPON TO FIGHT MALARIA
Mosquitos breed in stagnant water. REMOVE STAGNANT WATER AROUND YOUR HOME TO REDUCE THE MOSQUITO POPULATION
The only way to transmit malaria is through mosquito bites.
SLEEP UNDER A BED NET EVERY NIGHT, ALL YEAR, TO AVOID GETTING MALARIA
The only way to treat malaria is to take specific malaria medication (LA*)
GO TO THE HEALTH CENTER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS
Third panel inset:
Vommitting, fever, body pains, headache