During the month of March, as the COVID-19 outbreak took off in South Africa, the ALA community set out to implement remote learning for all students, enabling the continuation of the current academic year. As an educational institution, we had to ask ourselves: how can we ensure learning continues while prioritizing the health and safety of our students, staff and broader community during the COVID-19 outbreak?
African Leadership Academy alumnae, Abii-Tah Bih ‘14, from Cameroon, was elected by The 57th General Assembly of the Associated Students of Michigan State University (MSU) to be the new Undergraduate Student Body President for the 2020-21 academic year. Abii-Tah most recently served as a representative in the General Assembly, for the James Madison College, and has served as chair of the cultural exchange committee and an ASMSU representative in the University Council.
The world as we know it has changed. As communities around the world grapple with a ‘new normal’ brought about by the devastating COVID-19 outbreak, the world is uniting through the creative arts whether it be through virtual concerts in John Legend’s living room, or online museum tours, the arts are virtually bringing us together in a time of social distancing. As a result, the ALA community has found various ways to stay engaged, vibrant and connected to one another. In Tanzania, Emmanuel Mushy ’11 launched a street art campaign promoting good hygiene and alternative modes of greeting in Kigogo, a rural part of Tanzania. The art mural, titled Zingatia – which means ‘consider’, was installed in the locale with over 57,000 residents, many of whom are low income and illiterate. For people who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19, this campaign communicates clearly in a language easily understood.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has affected all spheres of society in unprecedented ways. We believe it is imperative to understand the far-reaching effects of the virus on the African continent. Enter the ALA Executive Seminar Series, a weekly digital engagement that connects distinguished professionals from the African continent to the broader ALA community in the form of insightful talks that help participants ponder on pertinent issues facing Africa. In April, the community heard from ALA co-founder and Senior Partner a McKinsey & Company, Dr Acha Leke; Regional Representative for Epicenter Africa, the research arm of Doctors Without Borders, Professor Yap Boum ll; CEO of Decolonial Mental Health, Zolani Metu, and former judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Justice Edwin Cameron.
Oyindamola Adefisayo ’08, currently doing her Ph.D. in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis at The Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, speaks on the COVID-19 pandemic and how scientific research can contribute towards finding a cure. In analyzing the current pandemic, Oyindamola said, “The success of SARS-CoV-2 as a pathogen leading to a pandemic is based on the fact that it is newly emerged, highly infectious but not extremely lethal especially when compared to other viral infections such as Ebola. These characteristics have led to governments and scientists having to play catch-up as the full impact of the virus only started to become apparent after it had already established a widespread infection across the globe.”
Having grown up as a South Sudanese refugee in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp, Mary Maker ’19 understands the plight of other refugees who find themselves at heightened risk due to the global outbreak of COVID-19. Currently an undergraduate at St Olaf College in the USA through a scholarship from the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program, Mary has been working with the United Nations Refugees Agency (UNHCR) to organize outreach efforts to deliver essential supplies to refugee camps. Through her efforts, a shipment of sanitizers, soaps and masks was delivered to Kakuma earlier this month.
A letter from ALA’s CEO and co-founder, Chris Bradford on Covid-19.
Across Africa, school leaders have spent the past month considering how to best respond to the evolving challenges of the COVID pandemic. Rapid change and high uncertainty require all of us to lead with proactivity, honesty and conviction. As I have worked with the ALA team and engaged other education leaders across Africa, I have considered what heuristics might guide decision making in times like these. Over the past month, I have come to recognize six principles that should guide our work. I hope these principles and the associated questions might be helpful and relevant as you plan your community’s ongoing response to the challenges of the pandemic.
Each year, students from a group of schools across Southern Africa come together for Derby Day, an activity-filled day comprising a range of sports and academic challenges. This year’s event was hosted at Maru-a-Pula School in Botswana, where, early this month, two ALA students walked away with both first and second prizes in the STEM competition. Fifteen different students took part in the competition, representing four schools from two countries. Out of those fifteen, Kenyan Michael Jembe Bongo ’18 came in 1st place with his “Co-Production of Energy from Wind and Solar” presentation, and Moroccan, Skylar Grace Montague Redecke ’18, won 2nd place with her presentation titled “Antibacterial Effects of Garlic”.
After noticing a big problem with fires, electric shocks, and house break-ins in his community in Arusha, Tanzania, first-year student Erick Simon Laizer ’19 decided to do something about it. Following a joint effort with his former classmate in 2015, the two problem solvers designed a unique smoke detector that connects to mobile networks to send automatic alerts to emergency response units within five seconds. For Erick, ALA has provided him with the opportunity to think even more deeply about his business and how he can strengthen it. “ALA was my number one choice because I have always loved how the school brings students from different countries together and having them focus on their entrepreneurial skills.
Every year, the African Leadership Academy Entrepreneurial Leadership department hosts an Entrepreneurial Festival, also known as E-Fest, which showcases unique solutions to grand challenges designed by first year students through the Original Ideas for Development (OID) units of the curriculum. The winning enterprise was ViC, a group of four students from Kenya, Tunisia, Madagascar and Burundi, who created an application that integrates sign language to text in order to bridge the gap between the hearing-impaired and hearing communities in Africa.
The Living Machine, a sustainable wastewater treatment system designed and implemented by African Leadership Academy alumni Wuntia Gomda ’17 of Ghana and Jesse Forrester ’17 of Kenya in 2019, has become a central component of teaching and learning in the Biology classroom at ALA. Head of Science and Technology Department, Hans Sowder, who has been leading The Living Machine installation, has incorporated this machine into his curriculum.
Since joining African Leadership Academy six years ago, Jake Galloway has held a variety of roles: Writing & Rhetoric faculty, Entrepreneurial Leadership faculty, and Year 1 Head. These days, Jake combines his teaching and advising responsibilities with a rigorous professional development program. Taking advantage of professional development opportunities available to faculty and staff at ALA, Jake is currently enrolled in a program at Columbia University, USA that will earn him a Master’s Degree in Private School Leadership.
African Leadership Academy Global Advisory Council member, donor and long-term friend, Ed Brakeman, facilitated a workshop on Impact Investment for second year students during the 2020 Enterprise Festival (E-Fest) on March 13, 2020. Ed was the co-founder and co-head of Bain Capital’s public equity investment business, and is a Director of Umsizi Fund, a private foundation that advances the development of global leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs.
During the month of February, African Leadership Academy hosted the eight annual South African Ideas Festival (SAIF), bringing together 35 scholars from high schools and universities around South Africa, working on the theme: “Self-Taught Leadership”.
SAIF is a culmination of a year-long leadership development program, which enables a select group of ALA students to acquire skills and knowledge, firstly through participating at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, USA, and secondly through the Student Enterprise Program at ALA.
Over the past month, 16 first year students in ALA’s International Relations Council were selected to attend two of the world’s most internationally acclaimed Model United nations simulations; namely, the Harvard Model United Nations that takes place in Boston each year, and the Georgetown University Model United Nations that takes place in Qatar.
Growing up in small agricultural town called Kitali in northern Rift Valley, Kenya, Maxwell Simba discovered from a young age that that he had a passion for the arts, specifically acting. Today at African Leadership Academy, Maxwell is often found not only flexing his acting muscles with his peers in the Ubuntu Theatre Troupe on campus but also behind the camera documenting events as he aspires to pursue a path in film directing.
Okong’o Kinyanjui has a true passion for TED and the TED Fellows program. Originally from Kenya and currently in his final year of studies at Quest University in Canada, he first interned with TED in 2017. As a Bezos Scholar, and thanks to the partnership between the Bezos Family Foundation and African Leadership Academy, Okong’o was selected to intern at the TED Global conference that took place in Arusha, Tanzania in 2017.
Koffi Emmanuel Sadzi ’17 from Togo made the daring decision to continue his education in Israel at Tel Aviv University. Koffi, who received the highest scores in A-level Physics in all of South Africa at the 2019 Cambridge International Examinations, is enrolled in the prestigious four-year engineering program at Tel Aviv University.
Speaking about her decision to participate in the competition, Noemi said, “I asked myself, ‘If I were not at ALA would I still have raised my hand and wanted to go for this?’ and I don’t think I would have….I’ve heard the founders of the school saying ‘We should always try to do the hard things and I kept that in mind.”
Afro Feminism is a movement that aims to end sexism and sexist exploitations specifically on the African continent. The Student Enterprise (SE) does this in three ways; firstly, it contextualizes feminism in the African context through its various activities; secondly, Afro Fem builds a revenue chain by designing and selling creative merchandise (that has sold out on each print run so far); and lastly, it educates by sharing empowering information for women across the continent.