During the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Peter Piot made a cogent comment on the role of academics in response to a global crisis (“There is a ‘moral responsibility’ to go out and stop Ebola in Africa”, News, 23 October 2014). I would also like to share a view drawn from my experience as an academic treating Ebola.
Throughout my time as a science student in higher education, my aim was to excel academically in my specialist areas. There did not seem to be any elements designed to help me to understand or realise my role in the international theatre. It was not until I joined the Ebola response deployment that I gained a deeper comprehension of the positive impacts of, and difficulties faced by, international efforts when crises such as Ebola occur.
With the exceptions of public service-related subjects such as sociology or healthcare, the opportunities for students to study international aid work appear to be remote. When designing curricula, education practitioners should consider components that can widen students’ views on their duties in society, from local or regional angles to a global perspective. Extracurricular activities, such as conferences or networking with aid agencies, can also help students to understand the nature of international aid work.
Senior lecturer in medical sciences
University of Central Lancashire