V. Duren-Winfield1, E. Barber2

1Winston-Salem State University (UNITED STATES)
2North Carolina A&T State University (UNITED STATES)
Malawi’s future may be adversely affected by HIV/AIDS as over 10% of its children, ages 0-14 have tested positive for the virus.

The purpose of the study was to support a community of Malawian teachers (with whom one of the researchers had been working over time) in using low-level “technologies” (PhotoVoice) (Wang & Burris, 1994) to create culturally comprehensible HIV/AIDS educational materials for pupils (n=950) in Standards 1 through 8. The project sought to honor local knowledge as U.S.-based researchers and Malawian teachers co-constructed culturally comprehensible HIV/AIDS prevention strategies to be owned by the teachers as knowledge-makers in their own right.

Responding to the Malawian teacher’s request, a research team consisting of three doctoral students and one professor was formed. Using emails to teachers as their initial primary point of contact, the team explored participatory action research strategies which allowed teachers to draw on their own knowledge to create culturally sensitive HIV/AIDS instructional materials. In this context, the use of PhotoVoice and big books seemed most appropriate.

In order to inform future efforts, researchers sought to document both the process and the outcomes of the project.

Participatory action research (PAR) Borkman, 1999 formed the study’s design. The PhotoVoice strategy was used by teachers to collect personally meaningful photos that could be used to evoke narratives for use in, and to inform, the construction of HIV/AIDS big books. Researchers provided 30 disposable cameras, 50 poster-size blank big books, and film developing fees as informational resource materials and the PhotoVoice method of participant research. At least one representative from each Standard 1-8 participated, including the head teacher (principal). Employing “power sensitive conversations” and the PhotoVoice process, teachers engaged with researchers to tell and write “health stories” that were incorporated into collaboratively-authored big books.

Data Collection:
Photo and video ethnography on the ground, and Malawian teachers’ emailed accounts of developments since that time, form the data sources. Teacher accounts are taken as analyses in their own right. Case analysis forms our analytic tool.

The PhotoVoice and big book methodology proved highly accepted by teachers in crafting HIV/AIDS materials. One teacher emerged as a project leader after the departure of the research team, and his work exemplified a deep commitment. Documentation of the process has led to information dissemination, and institutionalization of the HIV/AIDS big book initiative within national curriculum reform, to affect teachers and pupils across the nation.

The low-technology strategy of PAR using PhotoVoice and big books to create culturally congruent HIV/AIDS instructional materials for Malawian children might prove useful in other third world low-technology settings. Teachers are willing to donate uncompensated time to work together on such an initiative. Incorporation of a teacher-leader on the ground is a significant adaptation. The potential for knowledge exchange through teacher-authored big books empowers teachers with the realization that they can make a difference and provide a positive contribution while addressing the goals of promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors and reducing HIV/AIDS.