Friday morning my living room was covered in scraps of paper and cardboard as three students sat on the floor finalizing their posters for the provincial science fair. The days before had involved many hours of revising written reports, making models and finding big cardboard boxes for displays. By Friday afternoon everything was ready and we packed into a chapa and headed an hour away to the school that was hosting the fair.
There, we met students and teachers from all participating schools in Gaza province. There were forty projects in total and as many teachers and visitors. I was quite pleased to find that a majority of the teachers were, in fact, Mozambican. There were relatively few Peace Corps Volunteers. Those of us who were present tried to keep to the background, though PCV’s were responsible for most of the logistics.
By and large I was impressed with the knowledge and creativity of the students. Projects ranged from medicinal uses of the “miracle tree” Moringa olifera to circuitry to seat belts. Our three students, Alexandre, Ercília and Dércio, did an excellent job. They had rehearsed their explanations ahead of time and, though they were nervous, they all performed well. I had also worked with Ernesto, a student at another secondary school in our town, and I was happy to see him win a special prize for the best health-related project. He investigated natural remedies for stomach problems using a native vine (a picture of his project will be uploaded later).
We spent two nights and one full day at the school. There were plenty of activities going on. Population Services International set up tents and offered confidential HIV testing. Geração Biz, a Mozambican peer education group, facilitated sessions about HIV/AIDS and other issues. One of my male students performed a great poetry piece about teenage pregnancy. Other PCV’s and I wrote and read a poem about gender equality. Of course, like with every Mozambican event, there was dancing. I somehow escaped being dragged into the dance contest but my female student won a prize for the best marrabenta.
Aderito, one of my two counterparts from the agrarian school, came to see the fair and was very impressed. We brought a T-shirt back for my other counterpart, Clara. They are both pretty pumped about continuing science fair next year so I’m hopeful this great program will continue after I leave.