It was a jovial moment when pupils in 40 primary schools in the Kilosa demonstration site of OHCEA Tanzania congregated at their schools to applaud for what they had attained after a successful sensitization on antibiotic resistance. This was one of the accomplishments of year three activities of OHCEA in Tanzania which included sensitization sessions for schools and communities on critical One Health issues.
The plan for this sensitization emanated from the scientific realization that antimicrobial resistance threatens the very core of modern medicine and the sustainability of an effective and public health response to the enduring threat of infectious diseases. Such sensitization was also in support of efforts of the World Health Assembly (WHA) of 2015, which adopted a global action plan on antimicrobial resistance, with intent “to improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance through effective communication, education and training”.
For OHCEA, the philosophy behind undertaking such sensitization activity was to build capacity of students at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) and Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS), who are members of OHCEA students’ club to conduct educational interventions which inculcate the concepts of One Health into communities. These were tasked to be ‘educators” in the context of the sensitization activity. In order to effectively build required capacities, these educators were supervised by junior academic staff from SUA and MUHAS who served as “instructors” during implementation of this activity. Both the educators and the instructors were trained for one day at SUA on how to transmit those instructions to the educators.
Sensitization activity was orchestrated from the lenses of previous sensitizations during which OHCEA Tanzania sensitized primary school pupils on various aspects of One Health including the epidemics of Rift Valley Fever, Rabies and Ebola. In this year, the focus of sensitization was on antibiotic resistance (ABR), which occurs when an antibiotic has lost its ability to effectively control or kill disease causing bacteria; in other words, the bacteria are “resistant” and continue to multiply in the presence of therapeutic levels of an antibiotic in the diseased person.
This sensitization activity was carried out in 40 primary schools in two zones of Kilosa district namely Dumila and Mikumi which are remotely placed from Kilosa Township. Kilosa is a demonstration site of OHCEA project that was chosen due to the fact that most parts are occupied by pastoralist communities especially Maasai and Sukuma that also mingle with farmers. In addition, Mikumi national park, which is one of large parks in Tanzania, is located in Kilosa and therefore creating more chances for zoonotic diseases.
Sensitization began by instructors and educators introducing themselves as well as creating rapport with pupils. This was followed by providing information on the meaning of antibiotics and ABR, causes of ABR, and ways to prevent ABR. Thereafter pupils were invited to ask questions that were responded to by the educators and instructors. At the end of the session, brochures were distributed while the educators explained briefly each theme focus on key messages on the brochure. The instructors and educators concluded the session by thanking the school management team including the teaching staff and pupils for participating in sensitization so effectively. In addition, the instructors and educators distributed incentive materials (pens and/or exercise books) to the pupils. Moreover, pupils were asked to share with their parents, family and community members about what they had learnt from OHCEA team.
After two days, the instructors and educators had an opportunity to go back to the same schools to get a feedback of how much the pupils had learnt from the sensitization. Most of the pupils admitted that information concerning antibiotics and ABR was new to them but very useful. One of the pupils reported that “proper handling and disposal of antibiotics were not clear before, but after this sensitization all antibiotics and all other medicines that will be given to them or their immediate family members will be properly handled (Standard 7 pupil). The feedback from pupils was attested by a rigorous analysis, which compared pupils’ knowledge on antibiotics and ABR before and after sensitization. Overall, there was an incremental change of knowledge due to the sensitization and such increase was considerably high across all scales, implying that the sensitization had made a significant change on knowledge and awareness.
Pupils also reported that when they returned home after the sensitization they communicated with their parents regarding ABR and the parents in turn were thankful and promised to implement the knowledge provided by their sons and daughters. This was demonstrated by a standard 6 pupil who reported that “my parent was thankful to One Health and wished them God’s blessings for educating the community and that it was good to pass such good knowledge to other members of the community”. Besides, some pupils confessed that they faced some questions from their parents and relatives some of which they could not answer. For example, one of pupils was asked by her grandmother that “If one becomes sick of a disease that is resistant to antibiotics, how can he/she be cured of the disease?”
Based on this sensitization activity, it is imperative to underscore that pupils may serve as change agents of their families and communities in the control and prevention of infectious diseases including outbreaks of zoonotic diseases.
OHCEA acknowledges the financial support provided by USAID and the permission granted by the Kilosa district including the schools where sensitization was carried out. In addition, the staff and students of MUHAS and SUA are grateful to their university managements for supporting this activity.