STORY BY SARAH GROSSMAN
Countries around the world are taking precautions against the Ebola virus, and Drake University is no different.
On Oct. 22, administration cancelled the trip to Ghana scheduled over January-term.
This course, “Education Opportunities for Children a Developing Country: Ghana, Africa,” was created for students to experience the ins and outs of a different educational system how teachers are trained, the expectations of students and other cultural differences in school systems around the world. The trip cost between $3,030 to $3,430.
“Essentially, there were four main points that went into our decision for cancelling the program,” said Annique Kiel, director of Drake’s administered programs abroad. “In the event of an any outbreak, things like border control, emergency transportation and health care, infrastructure can be tested and deteriorate quickly … Ghana is currently managing a cholera outbreak, so any threat of Ebola would exacerbate any infrastructure issues they may already be facing.”
With increased airport precautions, any students with Ebola symptoms such as nausea, chest pain, cough and stomach pain could face travel restrictions.
“If a student were to become ill over there, the sort of uncertainties and disruptions that that would cause, a fever or anything like that would just cause a lot of alarm and uncertainty,” Kiel said. “We decided it was in the best interest of the students and of Drake to cancel the trip.”
Currently, only four countries in Africa that are in the midst of Ebola outbreaks: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
Ebola, a viral hemorrhagic fever, is a part of a family of viruses that cause hemorrhages and bleeding.
“They are very serious, but not as easy to spread. You have to come into contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has an infection,” said Meghan Harris, professor of epidemiology.
Although Ebola has not reached Ghana, Drake’s Travel Risk Assessment Committee determined that the risk for this trip was too high. Associate Professor of education, Jill Johnson, who would have led the trip, acknowledged the sadness and necessity in cancelling the class.
“It’s certainly really disappointing,” Johnson said. “I’m personally invested. (But) with all the unknowns right now, it’s really hard for me to put students in a situation that puts them in danger.”
Johnson, however, had a few concerns about cancelling the trip and how it would impact students.
“I had three main concerns, first of all, students who wanted an international experience, wouldn’t get it,” Johnson said. “Another one of my concerns was what about all the money. Obviously, when it’s not their decision, I want the University to take to take care of the kids. A third concern was some of my students signed up for the course to fill the AOI engaged citizen.”
This is not to mention students upset about missing this opportunity.
“I was really looking forward to the trip because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Cassandra Aerts, elementary education major.
Johnson continued to explain that her worries were all resolved.
“The University has addressed all three of those with me and my students. Everything is being totally refunded to them. In the last two days, we have looked and found travel seminars and J-terms that we were still allowed to add students to,” Johnson said. “I know for a fact two students are going to Belize.”
Harris provided final advice for students regarding the Ebola outbreak.
“Don’t panic,” Harris said. “Right now, Drake students should be getting their flu shots. That is the number one health concern.”