Team from Edinburgh Infectious Diseases take the "Understanding Bilharzia Programme" to school children in Zimbabwe

As part of their research programmes in rural Zimbabwe, the Mutapi lab has been involved in a series of talks on Bilharzia to teach the children about the life cycle of the parasites causing the infection and simple methods to prevent infection.

Each year the team from the Institute of Immunology and Infection Research at the University of Edinburgh travels to Zimbabwe to collect patient samples for their research into the control and treatment of bilharzia, also known as schistosomiasis.  On their previous visits questionnaire studies showed that school children knew relatively less about bilharzia than malaria and that there were several misconceptions about the transmission of schistosome parasites.

Understanding Bilharzia Programme essay competition

This year, under the "Understanding Bilharzia Programme" which is collaborative between the University of Edinburgh, the University of Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe's Research wing, the National Institute of Health Research, the Mutapi lab ran an Essay competition in two primary schools, Chingwaru Primary School and Chingono Primary School in Murewa.  The lab has been working in these schools since 2012, conducting fieldwork for their project on paediatric schistosomiasis which is funded by the Thrasher Research Fund

The team received around 60 entries from children in grades 5 to 7 and 3 winners were selected from each school, with the student writing the best essay from each school receiving a scholarship to cover their fees for the remaining academic year (see photos below).   Please do take time to read the winning entries; they are both enlightening and entertaining!

Winning entries

  • Dylan Mushangwe, Grade 6B, Chingwaru Primary School

I was a fit and clever boy.  In my class I was an excellent boy.  I was active and clever.  In sports I was a best runner, high jumping and volley ball.

To my surprise I started to feel weak.  I was sleeping in class.  It was hard for me to listen to my teacher.  All subjects were hard for me.  My teacher asked me so many times about the sleepiness.  But I didn’t answer him because I didn’t know that I was suffering from bilharzia. My health was in a bad condition.  My body was thin.  I started to feel hungry short time after a meal.  That time I was a food killer but without appetite.

After a long time of my suffering my parents took me to the nearest health centre.  My urine was tested.  My parents were told that I was affected my bilharzia.  I was given tablets.  After a week my health was better.  I was able to listen to my teacher without sleeping.

Prize winners being presented with their awards by Dr Francisca Mutapi (University of Edinburgh) and Professor Takafira Mduluza (University of Zimbabwe).

  • Tinotenda Gachina, Grade 7, Chingono Priimary School

Bilharzia is an enemy to my health and education

Bilharzia is a disease spread my germs.  When you are affected by bilharzia you fall asleep, headache, passing urine with blood, losing weight and stomach ache.

Bilharzia is found in dirty stagnant water, unprotected wells.  Bilharzia is found in water.  When people play in dirty water they will be affected by bilharzia through germs. 

Bilharzia is very dangerous to people.  It causes people to fall asleep every time, to suffer with headache all the time, to urinate urine with blood time after time and also causes stomach ache.

If you are a school child you sleep during lessons, fail to do school activities and also fail to pass.  Bilharzia can be treated at clinics or hospitals by giving bilharzia pills.  At our school we want to thank the donor with the bilharzia programme.  They helped us very well.  At first they tested out blood to check that if we are affected by bilharzia.  Secondly they came and gave us bilharzia pulls.  But before they tested our blood they measure our length, weight and temperature in order to know the number of pills given per children.  They treated us very well.  Now we are not suffering from bilharzia anymore.  They teached us that we must not visit the toilets without shoes, we must not swim in rivers and we must not drink water from unprotected wells.

Thank you health organisation.

To read more on this story and the runner up essays as well as about other outreach activities by the Mutapi group please visit their website

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