Leadership skills were truly put to the test yesterday as students sought to solve two of the most intractable issues of recent years: the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and the threat of Islamic State worldwide. This special event for students on the Introduction to Leadership programme is designed to test students’ ability to think dynamically, collaborate with others, and employ leadership techniques towards reaching a suitable resolution.
In the first summit, students were tasked with developing a resolution within the context of the Ebola outbreak of 2013-16. Students were appointed as representatives of the countries involved, such as Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the UK. Students put forward several sound propositions: surveillance and contact tracing in order to register each case efficiently and track all those who might have come into contact with the affected party; raising community awareness around risk factors for infection and how to prevent it; and travel restrictions and quarantines to help contain the infection and stop it spreading. The resultant resolution took into account many of these good points and was ratified by all.
After a break to decompress and realign thoughts, students embarked on the second summit of the day: this one concerned the threat of Islamic State, the extremist group continuing to terrorise areas of Syria and Iraq, believed to be operational in at least 18 countries, and laying claim to several attacks outside these regions in Jordan, Istanbul, Egypt, the UK and France. The threat of Islamic State is one that the international community is still yet to eradicate, and students likewise grappled with the complexity of the situation and the factors involved. For instance, whilst many advocated strong and unerring military onslaught as the only possible way of subduing the activity of the terrorist organisation, others pointed to some of the systemic issues that might have led to the rise of this extreme ideology, and argued that it would be more constructive to address these. A compromise was made in the end, with a resolution proposing increased surveillance of areas of activity towards launching highly-targeted military operations, and further attention to issues of social cohesion and inequality in affected countries.
When the resolution had been passed, all took a sigh of relief, and went off to enjoy an invigorating zumba session―student shook their worldly cares away to the motivational beats of mamba, soca and salsa. Some students chose then to contend with the campus laundry machines, whilst others went head to head at the chessboard.