A young Ebola patient who took his college entrance exam while being treated in isolation has passed the demanding test, to the joy of many in Congo where his story is now well-known.
Claude Mabowa is among the nearly 3,000 people who have been confirmed to have Ebola in what has become the second-deadliest outbreak of the virus in history.
Now the celebrated Ebola survivor says he hopes he can realize his dreams and show other Ebola patients there is hope.
“I was very happy and joyful when I saw the Ministry of Education text message on my phone reassuring me that I have just passed … despite the precarious conditions,” he told The Associated Press. “Being sick in an Ebola centre, most people do not come back but also many people lose hope of living.”
Mabowa’s mother had died of Ebola, and he told the AP in July that her greatest hope was that he would attend college. That requires passing the secondary school baccalaureate, or “bac.”
“I was afraid that I was sick and that I was going to miss the exams, but fortunately the Ebola treatment centre officials had appealed for me to take the exams,” he said. “I had already lost six members of our family, including my mother, who asked me to continue with studies because that is the key to life.”
The 21-year-old was able to take the exam after staffers at the treatment centre run by the Alliance for International Medical Action, or ALIMA, in the eastern city of Beni came up with a solution.
They found a school official willing to proctor the exam as Mabowa took it safely behind a window. The papers were passed to him without touching him. After finishing, he held the pages up one by one to the window so they could be photographed with a smartphone and then emailed to officials for scoring.
Then his work and his pencil were incinerated.
This week Mabowa, who was released from the centre in July, celebrated with friends by throwing powder on each other’s heads, a local tradition when passing the exam.
His Latin teacher, Muhindo Bukangali Loboto, said he prayed for him every day.
“Claude was among the best-educated who loved his studies and he has shown us what he is capable of,” he said.
With nearly 2,000 confirmed deaths in eastern Congo, the Ebola outbreak is far from over. Health workers have been challenged by community mistrust and insecurity caused by years of rebel attacks.
Mabowa is a glimmer of hope.
He says now that he has survived Ebola and passed his exam, the next hurtle is going to a university. He said he hopes to study political science at the University of Kisangani, and he appealed for support.
“After Ebola there is life,” he said.