Day 10 in Zambia – the running group did their run and after another breakfast of toast (and bread for some because the toaster stopped working), but also watermelon and bananas, we departed for Beit Cure Hospital at 7:45am. We reached there on time, this time without forgetting any adapters or other supplies fortunately! We had to wait there for a while, until Alfred and others came.
Once again we were going to a school – this time a regular primary school called Kizoto School and we were going to screen hearing of all the first graders at the school. The ENT truck came along with both the nurses (Evelyn and Charity) and also Patson, the audiology tech, and they examined all the children’s ears.
Once again we also passed through some rough neighborhoods getting to the school, although the school building and grounds looked good.
We met Mr. Katongo, the head teacher and he welcomed us and arranged for us to have two rooms for the hearing screenings.
We had some initial difficulties setting up the equipment because the rooms had no power sources! So Patson had to go buy some batteries to use the battery powered audiometers – we eventually did get set up with 4 screening stations. The chaos started pretty soon thereafter! I believe the kids had a 15 minute recess and all of a sudden there were literally hundreds of children swarming around us and around the ENT truck – so much so that Evelyn took out a broom and shooed them away saying they had to step back! Fortunately a teacher asked the kids to form a line so all the first graders got in line and the rest of the kids gradually returned to class.
At the screening rooms we also had kids peering into the windows and lots of groups of children talking and had to shush them and try to send them away. At first we did this politely, but then we too started being more forceful asking them to leave or go back to class, trying to desperately make the screening environment quieter so we could test the children! One staff member Timoth helped us the most by shooing the kids away from the screening rooms and trying to keep the area quiet.
In addition to these challenges, we were also taken by surprise that the children did not speak English, as we were not expecting that. Once again our student team did a great job overall – adapting to the situation, doing whatever it took to get the job done. For example Jill and Nicole kept the kids waiting in line to be screened entertained with “Simon says” even though most of the kids did not understand the game; Many students rose to the task of trying to keep the area quiet and under control and became more assertive. In the end we screened 142 children and finished around 12:30pm or so. The students were exhausted from their efforts and the chaos at this school!
However, since we had an unexpectedly short day, we decided to take a short rest and then went to visit Kalimba Farms and Reptile Park. This turned out to be another nice little park near Lusaka – although we had to drive for about 12 km on a bumpy dirt road and keep the windows of the bus closed to avoid the clouds of dust.
We had a guide who gave us a tour of the park and we saw lots of snakes and crocodiles ranging from small ones to huge ones that were 60 years old and weighed 3 tonnes!
At the end of the tour we also got to hold an African python if we wanted! Mel was the bravest and wrapped the whole snake around her and also held its head. Others were not as brave!
There was also a trampoline and miniature golf, which we enjoyed for a little while.
Then it was on to Manda Hill Mall for dinner. Jenn and I invited our driver Emmie to join us and he did! We had a very pleasant time chatting with him and learning more about his family and school in Zambia. His oldest daughter is in 11th grade and wants to be an economist and is doing well in school.
At our de-briefing this evening we had a great discussion and the students had some good insights about today’s experiences at the school:
- They said that even though we finished early today, it was more exhausting and has been their most challenging day so far
- They felt the language barrier with the kids today was more than at the schools for the Deaf, because there they were able to use gestures better, and found this frustrating
- They commented on how difficult it was to condition the kids to do the hearing screening task and how they had to be more creative in their ways to get the kids to do the task
- They commented on how many of the kids just had blank stares; but they did also see how once the kids understood the task many did well
- They discussed clinical decision making – and how undergraduate students were getting to experience and participate in more advanced graduate level skills
- They discussed how they became more assertive with controlling the kids to reduce the chaos
- They discussed how the swarming of the kids was overwhelming, and how “micro breaks” may be helpful as needed
- They again discussed cultural differences: how the pace of work here is different (slower) than the US; how the kids were likely overwhelmed and maybe intimidated by the large group of “muzungus” (white people) that came to their school
- They appreciated some of the older kids (9th graders) who were prefects, who helped try to keep the kids organized
- They commented on how rewarding it is to work with kids, even though it is often difficult
- They also realized that sometimes you may do everything possible and not be able to test a child and that is OK – it is not you but the child in some cases
- They also had some great suggestions on how to make this experience better
- Keep this experience but not have it be the first thing students do in future years
- Brief the school ahead of time about what we are going to be doing
- Introduce our group to students and staff and explain what we are going to be doing
- Learn phrases in the local language
- Have a translator / staff member in each room
- Start off on a better more organized fashion (because once we started with chaos it was difficult to recover from it)
- Prepare more for this day (which was difficult this time around because this is the first time we are doing this)
- Discuss the normal school schedule with the head teacher so we know about recess or breaks when all students are going to be out of their classes
All in all a challenging day but with a lot to be learned from it!
Student reflection from Kate:
Today was yet another interesting day here in Zambia. I went into the day thnking, we’re just doing screenings on first graders? not a problem after visiting two schools for the deaf but boy was I wrong. Our visit started off with the Beit Cure truck being swarmed by children and the chaotic theme continued throughout our time there. Although testing the kids had its challenges I’m not too surprised considering their age as young kids can be challenging to work with but the types of challenges were different than what I expected. What surprised me most was the difficulty we had with communication. This was so surprising because going into today I assumed this school would be the easiest to test because they could hear and I thought they could speak English, compared to the other two schools that basically just used sign language. Even though our environment was not ideal because of the open/broken windows that let sound into our testing rooms I’m impressed each time we make these situations work. Whether its turning the screening into a fun game or chasing other noisy students away from where we were testing the group is continuing to show flexibility which has been key on this trip.