By Maya Kurtsikidze
TBILISI, Georgia, 3 May 2007 – Schoolchildren across the Republic of Georgia have undergone two days of lessons on avian influenza in a bid to raise awareness about the part they can play in protecting themselves and others against the virus.
The campaign was spearheaded by the Ministry of Education and Science and the National Curriculum and Assessment Centre, with support from UNICEF.
Schools throughout the country took part, giving lessons on the dangers of bird flu and how to spot symptoms of the disease and prevent outbreaks. The schools received educational packages on avian influenza consisting of informational booklets for teachers, lesson plans, school calendars and posters.
During their lessons, children drew pictures depicting avian influenza issues. The pictures were displayed in an exhibition at the end of the national campaign.
“I knew some information about avian flu from TV, but thanks to our school lesson I know much more,” said Mari Bajiashvili, 12, from Koda, near the capital city of Tbilisi. “I have learned that we should not touch fallen birds and should our wash hands at all times.”
Channels of information
A study commissioned by UNICEF prior to the start of the education campaign showed that youth in Georgia had minimal knowledge about the preventive measures that are effective against bird flu.
The UNICEF study also revealed that Georgian children knew little about personal hygiene practices that help prevent avian influenza. According to the study, only 5.5 per cent of children aged 6-11, and 9.1 per cent of those aged 12-16, wash their hands after touching poultry. Left unchecked, this behaviour poses the potential risk of spreading the disease.
“Children are the best channels of information because with the information that they get from the school, they are going back to their families and conveying, of course, all of these messages,” said UNICEF Representative in Georgia Giovanna Barberis.
UNICEF will continue raising awareness of bird flu among children through a combination of formal and non-formal education. During the summer, for example, drama workshops tackling avian influenza issues will be organized for children living in high-risk areas.