Introducing Aruna Kallon, a recent winner of the African Studies Program’s Racial Justice Award for his project, entitled “Examining the Association between Healthcare Seeking Behaviors and Risk of Testing Positive for COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Aruna is a PhD student in the Department of Educational Policy Studies (EPS), School of Education. He holds a master’s degree in Sustainable Peacebuilding, from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a Bachelor of Laws (LLB), and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English, from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. Aruna was previously a Mandela Washington Fellow at the University of Virginia, and a Distinguished Graduate Student Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In his first year in graduate school at UW-Madison, Aruna served as a graduate Project Assistant with both the African Studies Program and the School of Education’s Global Engagement Office. He loves soccer, friendship, and comedy.

Aruna’s current research aims at understanding the impact and efficacy of free universal basic education in his home country, Sierra Leone, in the wake of the Ebola epidemic and the coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, the nation’s government instituted a policy of universal, free primary and secondary education. Aruna’s research asks how free is free, how do educators and students comprehend the program, how will the government sustain the program, and what will it use to measure its success?

“I want my research to inform future engagements among school administrators, the government of Sierra Leone, policy experts, and international education partners,” Aruna said. “I also hope that my study will help provide data on and an understanding of how the policy is being implemented, as well as what it portends for educational outcomes and for narrowing the achievement gaps for approximately 1 million school-going children across the country.”

As an international Black student, Aruna explains that two major events have impacted his work and perspective: the murder of George Floyd, as well as the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty that the coronavirus outbreak wrought across the United States and world. In March 2020, UW-Madison mandated a temporary end to face-to-face instruction and human subject research, which stifled Aruna’s preliminary research plans for summer 2020. While Aruna’s travels have stalled, he has reframed some of his questions so that he can continue to work remotely. He will collaborate with his colleague at the Public Health at the Medical College of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee, to investigate how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the education communities he works with for his PhD research.

COVID-19 has spread rapidly across Sub-Sharan Africa. Despite the increase in the number of cases, little is known about the influence of healthcare-seeking behaviors on positive COVID-19 cases. To fill this gap in knowledge, Aruna’s research study aims to examine the association between healthcare seeking behaviors and risk of testing positive for COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa. Aruna explains, understanding how people seek health is important for the planning of healthcare utilization or attempting to estimate the consequences of COVID-19. This study will inform clinical and policy interventions on targeting healthcare access, services used, and healthcare-seeking behavior to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infections.

You can connect with Aruna via email:


By Carly Lucas