This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Ebola challenges school in West Africa

DALTON, Ohio — Despite the Liberian government closing schools in an attempt to arrest the spread of the Ebola virus, teachers at the Bridge of Hope girls’ school continue to educate through visits to students’ homes.

For seven years, Bridge of Hope girls’ school in Monrovia has given Liberian girls an opportunity for education. — Mennonite Mission Network
For seven years, Bridge of Hope girls’ school in Monrovia has given Liberian girls an opportunity for education. — Mennonite Mission Network

They teach families how to prevent Ebola, pray with and encourage them, and deliver a life-line of supplies.

Bridge of Hope was founded in 2007 by Liberian pastors Jackson and Victoria Weah, and Marilyn Rossiter. Rossiter, with her husband, Hank, served in Liberia from 2004 to 2006 through Mennonite Mission Network.

The Rossiters and Weahs created the school in Monrovia to give girls the same opportunities Liberian boys have. They also wanted to offer education in a Christ-centered community where students are respected.

When the government mandated school closures, Bridge of Hope had 142 students in kindergarten through sixth grade and was $10,000 away from completing a third floor that would have expanded the school to the ninth grade.

The school is applying for a grant to supply the school with a library, an important resource in an area where electricity for computers is rare. Plans were also being made to transition the school to be operated entirely by community members.

‘Holding pattern’

In an Oct. 8 email, Jackson Weah wrote: “The situation in Liberia is precarious with deaths in every community in our nation. Bridge of Hope was sailing smoothly until this nightmare erupted with deaths right at the door stairs of the school.”

Marilyn and Hank Rossiter, who served in Liberia from 2004 to 2006, continue to walk alongside their Liberian friends. — David Fisher Fast/MMN
Marilyn and Hank Rossiter, who served in Liberia from 2004 to 2006, continue to walk alongside their Liberian friends. — David Fisher Fast/MMN

In September, last year’s valedictorian, Issatu Kromah, lost her father to Ebola and principal Victoria Weah’s sister also died.

Jackson Weah said Bridge of Hope is initiating a feeding program “while we await the government pronouncement to reopen schools — hopefully in December.”

Although no other teachers are known to have been affected by Ebola, at least 10 more people in the immediate area have been infected. Hank Rossiter described the situation as being in a “holding pattern.”

Although the Rossiters left Liberia in 2006, they continue to raise funds for the school’s future from their home in Ohio.

One of the Rossiters’ highest priorities is to assure teachers’ pay in order to provide quality education to their students. Teachers in Liberia often take jobs with multiple schools in order to guarantee a paycheck.

The Rossiters also want to assure food and sanitation supplies for Bridge of Hope families. In an already fragile economy, the Ebola crisis has caused the price of staples such as rice to skyrocket.

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