Taking COVID-19 lessons to children in Chimanimani

‘During the cyclone we were supposed to be vigilant, the same with coronavirus’

It’s late-March and break time at Kushinga Primary School in Zimbabwe’s Chimanimani District. For 11-year old Angela Mudzokora and members of her school’s Health Club, it’s time to begin their hygiene awareness activities.

“You should always wash your hands with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds, no more handshaking, try to stand one metre apart, and don’t touch your face,” she says, demonstrating to a group of pupils gathered for a lesson about COVID-19.

The 60-member club was formed last year to raise awareness on hygienic issues amid fears of an outbreak of waterborne diseases, such as cholera and typhoid following Cyclone Idai that devastated the region in early 2019.

The club has now turned its focus to ensuring that fellow pupils – and people in the surrounding community – are equipped with information on preventing and protecting themselves and others against COVID-19.

“We cannot repeat the same mistakes. We have the power to act… we now understand the power of information. It can save lives,” Angela says.

Mathew Tonha, the school Health Coordinator, said the school established the club to promote peer to peer health education in August 2019.

“After the trauma the children suffered after Cyclone Idai, we thought that apart from professional counselling, the children would be able to comfort each other and also share information among themselves,” he said, as he supervises the mounting of COVID-19 awareness posters around the school grounds.

The posters which were designed and distributed through funding by the Health Development Fund, a multi-donor pooled fund supported by the United Kingdom’s UKAID; the European Union, Irish Aid; the Swedish Government and GAVI, are being distributed, with other materials across Zimbabwe. This is part of a national prevention and awareness campaign to mitigate against the spread of the virus.

Before the lockdown, UNICEF teams were visiting Kushinga and surrounding schools in Chipinge and Chimanimani Districts, distributing Teachers’ Guides on key messages and actions for COVID-19 prevention and control, and posters to schools.

“Teachers talk about coronavirus during the morning assembly, but the health club members are ‘more effective’ because they engage in more intimate formal and informal sessions among fellow pupils,” says Mr Tonha.

“Using the Guides and key messages, I am able to train the students to share the information effectively with their classmates and their families at home.”- UNICEF ZIMBABWE

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