Wolbito na Escola is a community engagement initiative in Brazil that’s bringing the science behind the Wolbachia method directly to children in their classrooms.
“Students are multipliers of information,” says Wesley Pimentel de Oliveira – WMP Brazil's Municipal Implementation Support who leads the community release pilots. “And they are agents of behaviour and routine changes in their homes.”
School children across Rio de Janeiro and Niterói are rearing Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes using the Mosquito Release Containers we most often use to introduce the mosquitoes in the field.
Karine Cardoso teaches 9 to 13 year-olds in Niterói. Over 3 weeks, her students monitor the progress of the eggs and then larvae in their boxes, adding water when necessary and keeping an eye on developments. She remembers the excitement in the room when the transformation from larvae to mosquito took place. “The children, my God, they have very observant eyes,” she says. “To bring this experience to the classroom… and the difference of a not boring class with a different way of learning. I really believed that they learned. And this experiment wasn’t just a knowledge exchange.
Through the program, the children also learn how the Wolbachia Method is complementary to all other forms of control and prevention of diseases transmitted by Aedes aegypti and they become advocates of the method in their neighbourhoods.
Miss Cardoso’s students have even created an illustrated book documenting the experiment to keep as a reference in the school library.
Between April 2017 to September 2019 about three thousand teachers in Rio de Janeiro and Niterói participated in the training with the aim of continuing to reach as many schools and students as possible.
Wesley is enthusiastic about how the program can be further developed and about the many benefits this method of engagement with younger generations can bring.
“Involving young children in a public health activity – in addition to being a scientific outreach program – students understand that they can be protagonists who have an important role to play in improving health and environmental conditions in their own neighbourhoods.”