On May 9th, 2015, the World Health Organization declared Liberia the first of the “big three” African countries to be free of the deadly Ebola epidemic, which has to date claimed the lives of over 11,000 people. Sierra Leona and Guinea continue to combat and report new cases of the virus, but already, a group of rising high school seniors from New York City are making their way to Liberia to repair and restore a Liberian education system that has been devastated by the virus and a prior civil war.
The four students, Edward Zhou, Michelle Chan, Amy Pan, and Alison Zhao attend New York City’s prestigious Hunter College High School, and are members of the I-HELP Liberia organization – an international nonprofit that aims to improve math and science education in Liberia through fundraising and on-the-ground educational aid.
When asked for comment, Mr. Asumana Jabateh Randolph, the founder of the organization and himself once a Liberian student, said: “As you learn, you also must learn to give you others”. Mr. Randolph has taught science courses to high school students at Hunter College High School for over twenty years, and has been bringing students to Liberia every summer for a majority of that time. “The students are extremely enthusiastic and passionate” Randolph commented. “I think they truly understand the value of the education they get here and believe they have a responsibility to help those with less means than themselves”
Previously, the I-HELP Liberia organization has held mathematics Olympiads and teacher training workshops in Liberia, donated science equipment, textbooks, and humanitarian supplies, and even sponsored students to receive medical certifications.
Now, with schools back in session, Mr. Randolph and these four students will be working with Liberia’s Ministry of Education to hold workshops and teach classes across the country, including sessions on the Ebola virus and its prevention. They will leave behind laptops, laboratory equipment, and various other educational resources for Liberian students and educators, in the hopes that “Liberian education can return to and then far surpass the state at which it once was.”