10 Fighting myths, misconceptions and misunderstanding through education.

One of my dearest friends in Uganda suffers from Epilepsy and gets regular seizures. Last year with the help of professionals in this country I put together an advice sheet about what a seizure is and how to help someone who is suffering one. I spoke to my friends’ family and friends helping them to understand and went into the local clinic to where I was staying to see if they could help. A nun who was one of the head nurses at the clinic told me there are many people in the area young and old who stay in their homes, not venturing out because of the abuse they receive from others. Their families also suffer from stigma and discrimination. There are so many myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings about epilepsy. Many in Uganda still believe a seizure is contagious and that  you can catch it by sharing utensils and the sufferer can poison food if they have a seizure nearby! Witchcraft still rears its ugly head too!

I now realise how courageous my friend is as he carries on his life as best he can, not allowing his ‘disability’ to affect him though he too suffers from abuse, name calling and even theft of his personal belongings when he is having a fit! I was determined this year to spread the understanding as much as I could and I got the ideal opportunity when I joined Brain Trust Nursery and Primary School. Charles, the director of the school knows my friend and has witnessed him having a seizure and was keen to help me educate the pupils at the school. I had spoken to Charles about my intentions and asked him if he could help by pretending to have a seizure as part of my lesson, and he did it expertly. I was quite shocked how well!

Judith, my friends mum and I sprang into action with a hundred wide eyed and rather shocked students looking on! Nothing like drama to get a point across! Then, in small groups, I got the children to create and then perform a situation as the other children watched, analysed and discussed right and wrong procedures. They were AMAZING! Note the major accident of one group when four fell off a boda boda (motorbike)!

Now one hundred 11-14 year olds have promised to be my pioneers to spread the word. Judith helped me throughout and was wonderful. She has a natural talent for teaching and of course this was a subject very close to her heart.

During the afternoon the teachers got the children to finish writing out the First Aid for someone having a fit and then they took them back to their families and communities and have promised to spread the word, and Charles tells me that the reaction of the parents and community was very good. Sounds like parents were buzzing about the knowledge their children had come home with and in fact several came to see him about it. So well done the children of P5, P6 and P7 of Brain Trust Nursery and Primary School. With your help life for people who have epilepsy and other conditions that cause fits will be better understood in and around Nawanyago. Video footage at bottom of page!

(I would love to obtain an old tent ground sheet to use in school here in Uganda, for activities such as games, crafts, etc. so the children and me don’t have to sit on bare mud. Please share this with your friends so next time I can teach on relative comfort! Thank you from Uganda)

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