Live bacteria microscopy has been utilized effectively to teach germ theory in communities affected by rheumatic fever, TB and HIV. Sessions have been conducted in three nations. These include with Aboriginal people in north Australia, with Luo people in western Kenya and with South Africans in Cape Town.
This method is effective for those without previous exposure to scientific information or factual accounts of causes of the diseases that are prevalent in their communities.
Success of this method is demonstrated in the interventions that people devise themselves, and in changed behaviour, resulting from participating in live microscopy sessions. Examples include construction of crude hand-washing facilities, building latrines and sterilizing drinking water.
Theory: critical awareness theory frames this ‘discovery’ education where people are given opportunity to discover new information themselves.
Process: familiar objects such as ants are used to orientate learners to functions of the microscope. Magnification is steadily increased and a ‘hands on’ approach is encouraged. A saliva specimen is provided by the operator and live bacteria, leucocytes and skin cells are visualised as they move across the slide. Movement observed in cytoplasm and motion of leucocytes confirms the existence of microscopic beings and germ theory.
A narrative of germ theory is provided in people’s languages during microscopy. Behaviour of leucocytes and bacteria is expounded thus providing intellectually convincing reasons for disease causation that is accessible to people with low literacy. Knowledge is also gained about the function of specific medicines used to treat or manage diseases.