Ebola in Bumpe: Connect Your School to Real Grassroots Action

Jennifer D. Klein
Hindo and team educate a community about Ebola prevention.

“Great social forces are the accumulation of individual actions.  Let the future say of our generation that we sent forth mighty currents of hope, and that we worked together to heal the world.”  —Jeffrey D. Sachs

Whatever your views on the Ebola scare as it’s manifesting itself inside of North America, there’s no question that this is a real, deadly epidemic in West Africa.  Real people are dying at alarming rates.  People I know and care about in Sierra Leone are in real trouble; the schools are closed, the quarantined are starving, the people are afraid to shake hands with their neighbors, and misinformation reigns.

I’ve written about Hindogbae Kposowa before, a young leader in Bumpe, Sierra Leone, who is leading incredible efforts to improve life in his community in partnership with TakingITGlobal and the World Leadership School.  I’ve also written about teachers in Bumpe, and the experiences I’ve had working with them on project-based learning and global partnerships.  Through Hindo, several schools in North America have been able to partner with schools in the Bumpe community, including The Berkeley Carroll School (Brooklyn, NY) and Town School for Boys (San Francisco, CA).  To learn more about one school’s work with Sierra Leone, explore this recent blog from Kristen Goggin at Town School for Boys.

Today, Hindo and his community are all-consumed by efforts to keep the Bumpe Ngao Chiefdom safe from the Ebola virus.  Please don’t wait to get your students and community involved.

Build a Project around the Ebola Crisis in West Africa.  There is nothing more authentic for inquiry and action than a real crisis in progress, and your students can be more than mere spectators, empowered to understand and support grassroots efforts instead of watching helplessly from the sidelines.  Young leaders in Bumpe want to communicate with your kids, and all schools will receive regular updates from local volunteers on the ground.  Consider the following driving questions and project ideas, which could easily be adapted for different grade levels:

1.     How can we understand the causes of Ebola? Have your kids explore the root causes of Ebola and how it is spread.  They could investigate how different countries are trying to manage the spread, looking at why Ebola was well controlled in places like Nigeria, while it has not been well controlled in Liberia or Sierra Leone.  For younger kids, this could be woven into lessons about personal health and hygiene.  For older students, this could become a powerful project on anything from public health policy to health care systems, and comparisons could include case studies in North America and Europe.

2.     How can we determine which solutions to the Ebola spread are most effective?  Have your kids explore how different health organizations are trying to stop the epidemic, including UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the Center for Disease Control.  Compare their impact with the strategies and grassroots efforts being used in Bumpe Ngao Chiefdom.  This is also an interesting opportunity to explore the best ways to educate communities–through community meetings, theatre, posters, billboards–and have kids create their own educational campaigns.

3.     How can we use math to understand the Ebola epidemic?  Have your kids do some real world math–on the exponential spread of the disease and the funding needed to stop it, on comparisons to other global epidemics, on the costs involved in the grassroots work being done in Bumpe, and/or the relative successes of bigger and smaller organizations, including their overhead expenses and how much is actually being spent to end the outbreak.

4.     How can we help end the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone?  Whatever the academic focus of your broader engagement, encourage your kids to plan and run a fundraiser or educational campaign about Ebola and how to get involved in stopping its spread.  Student presentations could include skits like those being used to educate communities in Bumpe, as well as artistic expression, writing, film, or other creative products designed to educate and inspire others to get involved.  Once a classroom or individual has gotten involved in Bumpe’s grassroots prevention work, you will receive regular updates from young leaders in Bumpe, which can be shared with your students and broader community.

5.     What can we learn by connecting with young people in Sierra Leone that we can’t learn from the news?  The Centre for Global Education plans to run a multi-point videoconference with young leaders in Bumpe soon; please contact me for more information (Jennifer@principledlearning.org).  Young leaders are also willing to Skype into classrooms on an individual basis, to answer students’ questions and talk about their efforts.  Please note that there are significant costs involved in having the electricity and internet necessary for such a connection on Bumpe’s end, so we do ask that your classroom make a donation to the project if you want a private Skype call.

Please reach out to me if I can help support your involvement in this important work (Jennifer@principledlearning.org).  Your kids don’t want to be spectators to global disasters–they are emerging change makers who want to be part of the solution.  Please don’t wait to get them involved.

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