Participatory is Fun
This is her first conference but she has noticed that hoards of people congregate around the coffee in the center outside the main hall between workshops.
“Let’s put up one of our rice bags on the wall,” she suggests.
We use new plastic bags for rice for displaying messages and making board games etc. so we quickly prepare one with large photos advertising our workshop and put it strategically in the main lobby. I comment that a sandwich board would be better as we could move around so everyone saw the message. She asks me what a sandwich board is and I explain it is like a human poster.
People have been telling Clotilda how good she looks in the fancy hats we use for drama. As the time for the workshop draws near, she hands one to me and says, “OK, it’s time now to mobilize”
She hands me a fancy hat and I follow her out into the now-crowded lobby. As we move through the crowd, up and down the aisles, we invite people to our workshop. Laughter follows us. Someone offers to buy our hats. Groups gather around us to find out what is happening. Our glittering head gear can be seen for a mile. I don’t think they have ever seen anything like this. We miss our coffee but when we start the workshop, the room is packed to overflowing. After the introductory energizer, which she has had to alter to accommodate the increased numbers, Clotilda chortles in my ear, “We have mobilized!”
The workshop is a great success. We have participants practice doing health dramas, puppet shows, flannel boards and songs. We show them our 3 card sort on weaning, pictures sequences for malaria and snakes and ladders board game on immunization. It is a great surprise for our facilitators to find that Europeans and North Americas are not very good at making up songs and dramas on health topics. The Europeans and North Americans need to be encouraged and given more time and even then the results are no where near what our village volunteers can produce which include all the key points and are funny to boot.
Song, poems and dramas are incredibly effective for teaching in Africa. We often have participants provide a short summary of a session with a song or poem and are amazed by what is produced with very little preparation. For some reason these skills are not as well developed by non-Africans. The contrast of what our workshop participants produce here compared with village volunteers is dramatic and has us all wondering if it can simply be a result of "professionals" being overly self-conscious. It is not all that clear.