Secondary school teachers to start treating Malaria in Rwanda

By Zaninka Umutesi
On 26 September 2022 at 12:14

The Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) Forum on HIV/AIDS and Health Promotion in Rwanda, has launched an initiative to fight Malaria in schools, where teachers will be trained to treat students.

The initiative will be rolled out on collaboration between students, teachers, educational institutions as well as actors from the health sector, non-governmental organizations among others.

It will be done in such a way that the teachers themselves will be trained to treat Malaria patients without the support of community health workers.

The program is expected to reduce the severity and number of malaria cases in schools.

The ceremony to launch this initiative took place on Thursday, September 22, 2022 and brought together representatives from various institutions including Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), Rwanda Basic Education Board (REB) and non-governmental organizations.

Malaria is currently an issue of global concern, with 240 million cases and 600,000 deaths registered in the past year. Of these, the disease killed from 70,000 to 110,000 children aged between five and 14.

In Rwanda, the disease still exists and kills many people. Statistics from RBC show that 998,874 people caught the disease in the year 2021/2022 which also claimed lives of 71.

From July up to date, 109,000 are reported to have caught the disease with the most vulnerable groups being students, fishermen and prisoners among others.

According to a study conducted by an organization dubbed Universal Health in Education in 15 schools in Kayonza District on 63,274 students indicated that 39,874 of them had fever while 19, 431 tested positive for malaria out of 38,502 tests.

This led to the idea to introduce programs creating the room for training of teachers and students about this disease so that they can treat colleagues like community health workers do.

Hassan Habimana, the legal representative of Universal Health in Education, said that training teachers to assist students within school premises instead of spending long time to get treatment was given high priority.

“We started in 2018, where our partner, Partners in Health, helped us to pay the community health workers who trained teachers. This initiative has proven to be successful in reducing Malaria in places where it was piloted,” he noted.

He explained that once they plan to expand this program throughout the country after acquiring official licensing.

Students trained under this initiative have hailed it for haing played a great significance to the fight against Malaria.

"The training enlightened us on how to prevent Malaria through the groups we worked with. We also had time to share acquired knowledge with our parents,” said Joel Niyonasenze from G.S Nyagasambu.

Christine Musabyeyezu, a teacher from G.S Kabarondo believes that Malaria has been reduced at her schools because they have been well trained and contributed to its eradication.

“When a student has a fever, we immediately work with the teacher on duty to treat him/her. If the student is diagnosed with Malaria, he/she he receives medicines and sent home where necessary,” he explained.

The Executive Secretary Rwanda NGOs Forum on HIV/AIDS & Health Promotion, Nooliet Kabanyana stressed that this activity will continue in other parts of the country in order to fight this disease with an active involvement of teachers and students.

As she says, the initiative targeted schools because students are among segments of the population vulnerable to Malaria.

Rwanda plans to cut Malaria by 50% from 2019 to 2024 Malaria.

RBC figures show that community health workers have played an important role in the fight against severe Malaria. The number has been dropping from 7054 cases in 2018/2019 to 4354 in 2019/2020, 2592 in 2020/2021 and 1833 currently.

The outcomes are also expected from trained teachers once the initiative is rolled out countrywide as highlighted by Epaphrodite Habanabakize, the head of Malaria Control Division at RBC.

“You know, it is said that 31% of Rwandans are in school. When you start a mission there and protect them, they go back to their homes and teach their families. We want to gather that group and make them participants so we can fight against Malaria together.”

The Head of ICT in Education Department at REB, Dr. Christine Niyizamwiyitira said observed launching these activities in schools is a good opportunity to cooperate with other institutions to make the program a success countrywide.

Rwanda's secondary school teachers are set to start treating Malaria.