As many as five students can be absent from Burega secondary school each day due to malaria. Nsaje, a teacher at the school in Kigoma, Tanzania, finds the situation frustrating, but also wishes she could do more when her students are absent.
She would like to offer them catch up classes or extra notes so they don’t fall behind. But in reality, the school is already understaffed and there is no formal way for students to catch up. The best she can do is suggest they copy some notes from other students.
Since Nsaje started working at Burega secondary school, two students have died from malaria. Teachers recommended the student go home and get proper testing and treatment, but she later found out the parents were poor and could not afford to take their child to the health facility so they only received paracetamol. One of the students, a girl, started to have convulsions and became paralysed and later died. There was nothing Nsaje could do to help.
There are so many students missing class from malaria
If Nsaje notices a child is sick, she will take them to see the health teacher and quickly assess the symptoms. They send the child home, but if they do not get adequate treatment swiftly, they often become hospitalised and can miss up to a week of school.
Nsaje has been a teacher for 12 years and remembers a time when the malaria situation in Tanzania was far worse. She says the trained volunteers who come into the schools to teach the kids about malaria really help. They come armed with different skills and information thanks to TCDC, a project that has received funding to combat malaria thanks to a partnership between Comic Relief and GSK. Njase says malaria education only comes onto the curriculum when students are in year six (about 10/11 years old) which she feels is too late. And even then, it is only taught once. So when the community change agents arrive, their knowledge is not only much more in depth but they can reach a wider age-range of students and the students learn a lot.
Despite these efforts, malaria has not been eradicated and there are still many challenges. Nsaje and her family also repeatedly suffer from malaria. They all use nets at home and take the necessary precautions, but the disease still affects someone in the family about once every two months.
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