It has been another busy week at the school in Kinamba. On Wednesday morning the nursery children were taken for their annual vaccination against worms. The thought of having to cope with over one hundred children having a needle stuck in them in quick succession is enough to fill anyone with dread, but fortunately the dose was administered by mouth. I passed the first group of children with their teacher heading down the hill to the dispensary as I was heading towards the school. Realising that this was the oldest group, I hurried onwards to catch the younger children before they left. I thought the teachers could probably do with some extra adult help to supervise their charges. However they were crossing the road outside the school before I had even arrived. Around 60-70 pre-schoolers with three adults. Quickly telling someone where I was going, I chased after them. I had no idea where the dispensary was, but the direction in which they were headed led to a busy road and I didn’t know how they would manage to cross safely with so many young children. In fact there were no more roads to negociate, only a steep muddy path, quite difficult for three year old legs, and a petrol station forecourt. Despite a number of motor bikes we were able to steer the children safely through this hazard and join the others already lined up outside the clinic. The children were re-arranged by class to wait their turn. I am amazed how well behaved they were, given their age and the length of the wait. The school didn’t appear to have a pre-arranged appointment and there were mothers with toddlers also being attended to. As well as people waiting to be seen there was a large lorry on the pavement, and a couple of men carrying long metal rods out of one of the shop entrances. It was certainly necessary to have “eyes in the back of your head”.
While we waited I noticed that a number of people were leaving the dispensary with brown paper bags filled with what looked like white material. As our children emerged many, but not all of them , carried identical parcels. When I asked about this I was informed that all children under 5 are given a mosquito net when they go to be vaccinated. Their immune systems are less developed and less able to fight the effects of malaria. Someone also pointed out to me that in a country where many members of the family may sleep in the same bed, this policy of giving out nets to the young can help to protect others from the disease as well.
Having been done, a finger dipped in blue ink to prove it, the children lined up again and were taken in groups, back to school where they were greeted by their morning porridge. The whole exercise had taken about 2 hours. The primary classes had been more fortunate. The previous afternoon the school had been visited and the medicine administered. It was obvious, however, that the dispensary is too busy to offer this service in the mornings.