Recognizing the need to ensure a safe, comfortable learning space for students in a district plagued by a high prevalence of HIV infection and high rates of malaria infection, Education Volunteer Ali Wolters launched a project that joined existing community organizations in the fight against HIV/AIDS and Malaria co-infection in the district of Guijá, Gaza Province, Mozambique. The project, titled “Combating Malaria and HIV/AIDS at School,” was based at the Secondary School of Guijá and centered around mass school rehabilitation activities. Windows, screens and doors were replaced and installed throughout the building, which serves as facilities for over 1000 students each year. Students learned about the naturally repellents available in the community and planted lemongrass, believed to be a natural mosquito repellent, on school grounds. A series of lessons and discussions were held with the students about HIV, HIV/AIDS and malaria co-infection, natural repellents, and the importance of implementing and maintaining the project in their community. Ali designed the PEPFAR funded project along with two teachers from the school with the goals of decreasing the risk of infection of malaria among the students and teachers at the Secondary School of Guijá- especially among those who are HIV-positive and/or pregnant, increasing student attendance of night school and their knowledge of the dangers of HIV/AIDS and malaria, and enhancing the students’ skills in helping maintain the school classrooms through the rehabilitation of the windows, screens and doors of the classrooms.
Collaborating with 19 student volunteers, local carpenters installed and repaired 100 windows and 10 doors and installed screens throughout the school. Installing screens and repairing windows and doors helps to protect students studying at night from mosquito exposure, with the hopes of further decreasing teacher and student absenteeism due to malaria infection. The student volunteers also gained carpentry skills, learning directly from the carpenters how to rehabilitate and maintain the new windows, doors, and screens.
Prior to, and during the completion of the rehabilitation of the school’s classrooms, the school carried out three informational sessions for the morning, afternoon and evening classes. These informational sessions were held with 8th-12th grade students on HIV/AIDS and malaria co-infection, natural repellents, and the importance of implementing and maintaining this project in their community. An 11th grade student who had been invited to research the use of lemongrass as a natural repellent at Mozambique’s Ministry of Science and Technology presented his research to fellow students during these sessions. He had been granted a 6-month internship with the local Ministry of Agriculture where he used the laboratory to plant and prepare lemongrass seedlings. Student volunteers planted lemongrass around school grounds. The students hope to see the malaria incidence at the school decrease over the next year.
Geração Biz, an existing student activist group at the school, held theater and school clean-up events to supplement the
project, boost morale, and promote the project among teachers and students. The group organized events focusing on using plants as mosquito repellents and keeping school grounds and the surrounding community clean and free of tall grass and standing water to help decrease possible mosquito breeding areas. They plan to continue organizing community clean-up events on a monthly basis and encouraging student involvement.
Though she is now ending her service as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Ali is certain that the work done during this project will be maintained, given the amount of community involvement and combined student and teacher enthusiasm for HIV/AIDS co-infection reduction.