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How Games in Schools are Preventing Blindness

“Where the students previously lacked knowledge in trachoma, they are now the driving force in promoting health messaging in the school and community.” Yohannes Meshesha, Accelerate Champion, North Bench District, Bench Sheko Zone, SNNP Region, Ethiopia.

Yohannes Meshesha is the supervisor of the Kasha cluster in the North Bench District, where he is responsible for cascading health education, including the Gamification intervention, to four schools as part of the global Sightsavers Accelerate Project. Yohannes relays to NALA how prior to the school intervention there was little understanding of the adverse effects and causes of trachoma, as well as limited knowledge of to prevent it. As a result, this devastating disease has been affecting students, teachers, and members of the school community for decades.

Trachoma, the leading infectious cause of blindness globally, is highly prevalent in Ethiopia with approximately 67 million people at risk of infection. Impacting the world’s poorest and most marginalized populations due to its association with hygiene and sanitation, the disease disproportionately infects women and young children. Complimenting treatment campaigns, NALA develops and cascades health education materials to communities and schools for preventative actions against the disease. This includes the ‘Gamification’ intervention.

Gamification is one component of the Accelerate project that aims to engage children in health education through the use of an interactive board game, challenge poster, and activity book. Made up of a winding path with different coloured bricks, students either land on ‘dirty’, ‘clean’, or ‘challenge’ cards which will send them around the board whilst learning about trachoma-related hygiene prevention.

Since NALA began implementing this project over 3,000 students and 87 teachers in the Kasha cluster alone have received the gamification intervention, which, Yohannes shares has taught them about trachoma, its transmission, and methods of prevention in an engaging and memorable way. He states that ‘as a result of this intervention, the knowledge of students has vastly improved, translating directly into proper handwashing after using the restroom, regularly washing their faces, and other carrying out other hygienic practices.’ Yohannes continues to say that ‘because of these health-targeted games in schools, where the students previously lacked knowledge in trachoma, they are now the driving force in promoting health messaging in the school and community.’

Yohannes summarises ‘in light of this, I'd like to express my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the NALA foundation for coming up with innovative interventions that are engaging and simple to understand with long-term positive impacts on the community.’ Thank you, Yohannes, to the other cluster supervisors, and the entire community for your support and hard work in cascading this important information. It would not be possible without you!

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