Intel initiatives like technology supported Project Based Learning, under the Intel Teach Program in Tamil Nadu, has brought about a silent revolution in community health in Mannargudi taluk of Tiruvarur district.
A group of students of Panchayat Union Middle School from Needamangalam block of the taluk have successfully launched a community campaign on ill-effects of mosquito coils. With the aid of technology, they conducted awareness programmes for their community members by giving presentations and distributing flyers and brochures.
It all started when a cousin of one of the students fell seriously sick. Suffering from consistent cough, convulsions and a splitting headache, Somu’s face was a picture of agony and pain. Perplexed by their son’s distress, the parents ran from pillar to post wondering what had happened. Was it dengue or the pollution? They approached various doctors, who subjected Somu to all kinds of medical examinations.
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All this time a mosquito coil was kept burning in his room to keep the mosquitoes away.Until they learnt that mosquito coils while keeping mospquitoes at bay, also release high levels of Carcinogens (cancer causing agents) due to their pesticide composition. Approximately, one coil releases as much particulate matter as 100 cigarettes, depending on the brand.Somu’s parents were aghast. They had literally exposed their son to passive inhalation of highly toxic fumes. Somu was now hospitalised with doctors diagnosing it as Allethrin poisoning (through coils). Regular exposure to coils meant the potential ill-effects could be dangerous and long term.
Seeing his cousin in a bad state, the student struck an idea to spread awareness among the community regarding the ill-effects of exposure to mosquito coils. He approached his teacher Manimegalai K, who had trained under the Intel Teach Program. She wanted her students to do a project, through the aid of technology. The key being an issue that would have an impact on the community.
So the students chose the topic ‘Harmful Effects of Mosquito Coils- an Eye-Opener’. Ms Manimegalai divided them into groups. While one group searched the Internet for more information on Allethrin poisoning, another group researched on the alternatives for mosquito coils.
The students wanted to reach the maximum number of people, so they made presentations and conducted awareness programmes, where flyers and brochures were also distributed. The project was also exhibited at the school level and now they will be participating in the district level competition for further outreach and impact.
Based on the extensive research, the student also prepared a medicated coil with Neem, Tulsi and Turmeric, along with leaves of Nochi, Thumbai and Aadaa Thodai. The coil was distributed in their locality and it received a positive feedback.
Ms Manimegalai has also written to President of India Pratibha Patil and state Health minister requesting them to personally take up this issue. The effort of the students also made it to the local newspapers. The project has been a success as students are encouraged with their ability to sustain a community campaign and parents are happy to have a safer alternative. Meanwhile, completely cured now, Somu is also back home