Weekly Awesome HIV/AIDS & Malaria Co-Infection: Rusizi Radio Project

Students from GS St. Esprit Mushaka record a sketch for the radio.
Ishimwe Marie Claire, left, and Mbarimombazi Uledi, students at E.S. Bugarama, address listeners live on the air during a question and answer session about malaria and HIV/AIDS. The question and answer session was part of the introduction to the radio series.

Ishimwe Marie Claire, left, and Mbarimombazi Uledi, students at E.S. Bugarama, address listeners live on the air during a question and answer session about malaria and HIV/AIDS. The question and answer session was part of the introduction to the radio series.

As the few minutes of twilight turned to dark, we were still waiting for the sound engineers to arrive. The students were losing hope and I was losing them. One by one they left the school disappointed. When the sound engineers finally arrived an hour and a half late I felt that our opportunity to record HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention educational sketches for the radio had passed. Yet, as the engineers started to set up their equipment in our school’s tiny library, the students slowly trickled back in. Even those that had walked all the way home somehow knew to return at the right moment. I knew that I should have learned long ago not to panic when issues of time threatened to derail a project. Have patience and things always seem to come together. Somehow.

By 11 PM, E.S. Bugarama Secondary School’s Malaria and Anti-AIDS Clubs had each recorded a sketch for the local radio station as part of a regional malaria project. It was the first step of many for Rwanda’s Cyangugu Region Malaria Mobilization Days. PCV Claire Brosnihan, the mastermind of the project, had written a VAST grant that would fund educational radio programs, malaria days at various secondary schools, and a malaria-themed volleyball tournament. A local radio station had given us discounts on airtime, and we were going to produce ten radio shows about HIV/AIDS and malaria over the course of five months.

While the school’s clubs work all year to educate students about health issues and perform sketches, their performances rarely reach an audience beyond their own schools. The students in secondary schools often have the highest awareness of HIV/AIDS and the most knowledge of malaria prevention, so it generally feels like they are preaching to the choir. It was refreshing to finally see their important messages being broadcast to so many listeners, especially those that lack information about these health issues. While the clubs usually operate in English, the radio shows were all done in Kinyarwanda to ensure that everyone listening was able to understand.IMG_6649

The Cyangugu Region worked with around 100 students from both the Rusizi and Nyamasheke Districts to put the radio sketches together, while a few dozen of them performed on the radio. The students were the creative minds behind the sketches, but the planning and execution of the project was mostly Brosnihan. Putting it together was not an easy task. Before the first episode aired in November, Brosnihan had been meeting with people from the radio and local partner organizations for nearly 8 months. Luckily, she had the persistence to keep pushing forward with the project despite the many obstacles in the way.