Thursday, February 6, was the last full day of the Kitengesa Community Library’s 2020 Youth Health Camp. The participants were 20 students (10 girls and 10 boys) who were just beginning their second year at secondary school. They had spent eight days learning about health issues, especially about nutrition, HIV-AIDS, and the most common cancers in Uganda. This being the last day, they were reviewing some of the material, and when I arrived the head librarian and the visiting health professional were fielding questions about dangerous practices such as smoking. Why do policemen smoke, a student asked, if they know it is not good for them? This led to a discussion of the attractions of smoking and the dangers of addiction.
Then each student was asked to name a topic they were going to research and make a presentation on the next day. The most popular topic was “balanced diet”, with several saying they would concentrate on particular vegetables (carrot, cabbage, or dodo, which is a local kind of spinach. Others chose to work on HIV-AIDS, and one said he would research Uganda’s three most common cancers. A few made trial presentations, and then they all spent the hour before lunch working on their projects.
After lunch the group followed the usual routine in discussing the meal they had just eaten and identifying the nutritional properties of each item. Then they went back to their research, a few on computers (even though the library has only two working ones), a few on smart phones (again, there were only two), and several reading books. Most worked in groups, and all were busy making notes. The librarians told me that the students’ ability to get information from written text has noticeably improved, and they commented on how important it was to have ten days for the camp rather than six, as they had last year.
So now we are looking for funds to support future camps—we would like to have one for older students about environmental concerns—and also to buy computers for the students to do their research. What the librarians have done this year is excellent, but it could be so much better with more equipment!