Despite the global lockdown, pupils and staff in Saint Margaret’s managed against all odds to successfully organise a rabies awareness conference in rural Malawi.
After having to postpone the intended June conferences for both Health Care Professionals and Rural Nursery Teachers (surprisingly, neither group had an awareness of rabies, despite living in a world hotspot for the disease), the Saint Margaret’s Awareness of Rabies Team (SMART) decided that it was crucial that the conference for nursery teachers was essential as 80% of rabies deaths are rural with the majority of these deaths occurring in children. The group then made contact with both Sister Anna (who runs 125 rural nurseries attended by over 6500 children in rural Malawi) and Vanessa from the charity Mission Rabies in Malawi. Due to current Covid-19 restrictions only half of Sister Anna’s staff were allowed to attend.
The SMART pupils also suggested that as the conference was aimed to cascade information to vulnerable children in rural villages, many of whom will never attend school, that a visual information sheet should be designed to be distributed in these regions to allow the lifesaving information to be shared. S2 pupil Sophie Drummond obliged by producing an amazing colourful poster which was sent for printing and distribution before the conference. This poster can now also be used world–wide for other Mission Rabies projects. The pupils also felt that as all of Sister Anna’s teachers are volunteers that they should receive refreshments and expenses for attending the conference and subsequently set about fundraising, setting up a Final Rabies Generation Book and wall where folk were given the opportunity to be a part of history by paying £1 to sign their names as a supporter of eradicating the disease from the planet by 2030. Pupils also sold tablet and Gingerbread Men.
Sister Anna said of the conference, which was held on 25th November,
“Dear Friends from Saint Margaret’s,
As I already told you, the Mission Rabies Conference went very well. Out of 55 nursery schools only 3 were missing, but one with a good reason because the teacher had to go to hospital.
Vanessa came in good time and she delivered her teaching in a very clear way so that everybody could understand. There were a number of questions, though not many, but at the end it was clear that they all had got new pieces of information regarding rabies. They all answered the questions which were translated into Chichewa and Vanessa took them to work out the answers.
The total number of participants was 62 and members of our staff told me they are going to share the contents of the conference with the village leaders when they have their meetings. Great, isn’t it?
All the participants got a drink and a big kind of cake during the break, cold bottles of water because it was very hot, a good meal with cold soft drinks and 3000 Mk. allowance for transport. We could not expect things to work out better than that.
I have explained to them that the conference was sponsored by our friends from Scotland in spite of the restrictions and the problems caused by the pandemic and I asked them to pray for you all.
God bless you and reward you abundantly!”
The group, supported by Council Leader Jim Logue, Neil Gray MP, Alex Neil MSP and Dr. Claire McGoldrick from Monklands University Hospital, now intend to fund the conference for the remainder of the nursery teachers as well as translating the educational materials they have created for Malawi into Spanish to allow these lessons to be taught in South America, potentially reaching millions of people.
Neil Gray Mp said, "I continue to be in awe at the incredible work that the pupils and staff at St Margaret's do for Mission Rabies development in Malawi and so many other good causes. It is obviously of great benefit to the people on the receiving end of their support, but it is also such a fantastic experience for the pupils to do this work. They are an inspiration."
Dr. Claire McGoldrick said, ''This is excellent work. Very important and really showcases the ability of St Margaret’s to do work that is so vital and will have such an impact across the world. Fantastic.''
The Saint Margaret's pupils have also organised a Christmas Famine Relief Under 7 Disabled Childrens' Health and Nutrition Camp, where the children will be assessed for various medical conditions and malnutrition and given enough food to feed themselves and their families through the impending lean season, along with a programme to feed Malawian prisoners a good Christmas meal.
Head Teacher Stephen Snee said, ''It is encouraging that, despite the current restrictions, pupils in Saint Margaret's are still managing to achieve so much for our various local and international projects. Our lower school pupils have worked with initiative and enthusiasm in their efforts to actually be the Final Rabies Generation and have received praise directly from the charity. It is a credit to the pupils and community of Saint Margaret's that we are still having a major impact during this global pandemic.''