Today was a day of “firsts” as well as a record-breaking day for the program: in one day we screened 402 children (a record!) at the Vera Chiluba Primary School partnering along with our UNZA buddies (a first!)! The team ran like a well-oiled machine and worked fantastically well together to get 204 children screened in the morning and 198 in the afternoon. Our students set up the equipment quickly, went wherever they were needed, helped with anything that was necessary and in general seemed to enjoy the day immensely. What a great cultural learning experience they had today working in a clinical setting with the UNZA students. For lack of better words, “Go team”!!!!
It is so hard to believe that today is already THURSDAY! The week is going by too quick!
Today we all went with our UNZA student buddies to a nearby primary school to do screenings on children in the first grade.
After training them on Tuesday at the university, all of the students I talked to were very excited for the hands on experience! When we arrived at the school it was a very different environment than we have had earlier in the week. There were many students there, I heard that the primary school consisted of around 900 children and about 200 in the first grade, which we were screening, so we were prepared for a busy day! I learned from some UNZA students that schools in Zambia are very different from those in the U.S. Here they have a morning session and an afternoon session at the primary school because of the overabundance of children in need of education, this way all of the children can have the opportunity to attend, if only for a short time. It is also very common for children who are much older to be in first grade. This is because due to rural living situations some children may not be able to travel the distance to school until they are much older. They are then most likely put into the first grade with much younger students because it is their first academic experience.
Upon our arrival, we split into groups, 5 pure tone stations, 1 OAE station (used when necessary), and 4 case history/visual inspection stations. I started helping at the case history stations first, and the UNZA students were great!
It was unbelievable how having students who spoke the native language of the children (Nyanja) was SO HELPFUL and made the process run so much smoother. When I was trying to collect names, it was difficult for me to hear the child because they are soft spoken, understand what name they were saying, know how to spell it, and then repeat the whole process again for the last name! I have a HUGE appreciation for the UNZA students and their ability to communicate with the children. They were great when interacting and asking questions. I helped out a lot at first, especially when the children repeatedly said that they had ear pain, further questions were then needed, “which ear?” “does your ear hurt now?” and “when does it hurt?” It was so helpful to have the buddies to translate those questions so the child could understand. After an extended period of time, I began to feel frustrated that almost every single child was answering “yes” to the questions “do you have ear pain?” and “have you had recent discharge from your ear?” I could not understand why the children acted this way, but found that I needed to remind myself that some of these children may actually have ear pain and that my only responsibility was to see that they got the best care available. In retrospect with the reflections of some members on the trip, the children’s responses may have attributed to a cultural trend in which children frequently respond “yes” to their elders, or others in respectful positions. What a learning experience, particularly about culture.
Next, I transferred inside of the building to run a pure tone station with two UNZA students.
It was a unique experience to be the teacher rather than the one learning about the machine now, especially as an undergraduate! I was very impressed with both of them and their abilities, especially since it was their first time screening. The part that stood out to me the most was the way that they interacted with the children. They made them feel comfortable by speaking in Nyanja, made sure the instructions were clear that the child needed to raise their hand when the tone was presented, did an example where the child needed to participate, and most importantly SMILED! They are going to be EXCELLENT special needs teachers when they graduate, their patience, love, and care are all so apparent!
We also had an afternoon of screening sessions, which also went very smoothly! We ended up screening 402 children today, due to the fact that several children who were not in first grade wandered into our screening line because they wanted to be part of the excitement. It warmed my heart! Tomorrow we will have our farewell dinner with our UNZA buddies, it has been such a pleasure to meet and talk with all of the students from the university and see them excel in their practical experience today!
Today we went to a primary school with our UNZA buddies to screen every child in grade 1. This particular school housed grades 1 to 7 and by the end of the day we managed to screen about 400 children. Although screening that many children was wonderful, the best part was that we were able to do this with the students we previously met just 2 days prior.
They were excited to have the opportunity to have some “hands on” learning, and quite honestly it was fun to sit back and watch them enjoying the experience. As I observed the several screenings that took place, I did notice one big difference between us and our interactions with the children. In the United States we give praise so easily to children and I see myself doing this too, especially when testing kids (the child raises their hand to our tone, we clap and give them a high-five). The UNZA students we were with did not do this. It was almost as if it was expected that the child would follow directions and, in fact, they did. The younger students respected the older students and their demeanor reflected this. At first, I wanted to correct them and explain that they should give them some type of positive reward but I realized it was most likely a cultural difference and my way of doing things was not better than theirs.
The other interesting observation I made during the day was the large amount of children who circled around and peered into the windows of the building we were in. They all wanted to talk to us and just say hello. I am still not used to that phenomenon and am not sure I ever will be. To me, we are not that different and although they may see certain advantages that we have, I know that they have some advantages we are missing out on too. With each day I try to remind myself to be fully present as I meet new people and experience new things. Tomorrow we are going to be at Beit Cure Hospital making rotations through different parts of the hospital-this will vary from being in the kitchen to observing the ear, nose and throat physician. I know we are all excited to be there and to have another day in Zambia!
We ended the day by signing certificates for all the participants at the professional development workshop that we presented at UNZA earlier this week…..
while the students watched some kids break dancing!!!!