Lesson Plans

A Global Pandemic: Comparing, Contrasting, and Connecting to International Responses to COVID-19

COVID-19 graffiti in Kibera slum, Kenya. Image by Henry Owino. Kenya, 2020.

COVID-19 graffiti in Kibera slum, Kenya. Image by Henry Owino. Kenya, 2020.


By the end of this lesson, students will be able to…

  • Analyze the challenges facing Kenya and Hong Kong as they confront the COVID-19 pandemic 
  • Compare and contrast how countries are responding to COVID-19 
  • Evaluate how text and video resources communicate under-reported stories


Starting in early 2020, countries around the world began creating policies to stop the spread of COVID-19. To learn more about the virus and how it spreads, click here.

Alternatively, students can complete the warm-up activitiy using this graphic organizer

Consider and write down your answers to the following questions: 

  1. What policies, or rules, were put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your community? Think of as many as you can. 
  2. What do the examples that you thought of have in common?
  3. Were they successful in slowing the spread of the virus? Why or why not? 

Communities and countries around the world have taken steps to address the pandemic. Think about what you’ve heard on the news:

  1. What might make it difficult for a community or country to effectively stop the spread of the pandemic? 
  2. What have you heard/read about how other countries are responding to the pandemic?
    • What policies have they put in place?
    • How have these policies affected the people in those countries?
  3. Are there any similarities between some of the steps taken? Think of similarities between your own community and other countries and between other countries. 
  4. Are there any differences you can think of? Think of differences between your own community and other countries and between other countries. 

Introducing the Lesson: 

In this lesson, students will learn about how two parts of the world, Hong Kong and Kenya, combat the COVID-19 pandemic. From poor sanitation infrastructure to political strife, these two places faced a variety of challenges in responding to the crisis. Students will encounter both a text-based and a video-based resource supported by the Pulitzer Center—one from InfoNile about Kibera, “Kenya’s Largest Slum,” and one from PBS NewsHour about Hong Kong. 

In “Into Their Own Hands: Kibera, Kenya’s Largest Slum, Tames COVID-19” by Henry Owino, students explore how densely populated informal settlements, projected to be especially hard-hit by the virus, have looked to community-driven initiatives to slow the spread. Owino reports for InfoNile on a project examining the dual crises of the pandemic and water scarcity in Africa’s Nile basin region. Next, students watch a PBS NewsHour segment titled “Hong Kong Residents Challenge Government Over Laws, but Fight Virus Together” in which Nick Schifrin reports on how Hong Kong has become a "coronavirus success story" despite political instability due to a controversial new security law imposed by Beijing.

Note on facilitation: Students can read and watch both resources consecutively, or can divide into groups and each group can provide a summary to their classmates. 

Some useful vocabulary for this lesson:

Comprehension Questions: 

As you read “Into Their Own Hands: Kibera, Kenya’s Largest Slum, Tames COVID-19,” write down your answers to the following questions:

  1. Why, according to the article, were African countries labelled as “time bombs” for COVID-19?
  2. What challenges did residents in Kibera face as the pandemic grew more serious? Make a list as you read. 
  3. What measures did the Kenyan government and Kibera community members take to limit the spread of COVID-19? Make a list as you read. 
  4. Why does the journalist write that “...a lack of clean and safe water supply makes the slum an ideal breeding ground for the coronavirus”?
  5. Owino calls some of Kibera’s methods for fighting COVID-19 “small-scale initiatives”—what could he mean by that? What initiatives is he referring to?

As you watch “Hong Kong Residents Challenge Government Over Laws, but Fight Virus Together,” write down your answers to the following questions:

  1. Why does Judy Woodruff say that Hong Kong “was expected to struggle with the pandemic”? 
  2. What challenges did Hong Kong face as the pandemic grew more serious? Make a list as you read. 
  3. What measures did Hong Kong take to reduce the spread of COVID-19? Make a list as you read.
  4. What is SARS, and how did the city’s experience with that inform their actions during COVID-19?
  5. Why, according to George and the reporting, did Hong Kong residents listen to and accept the actions of the government when “the animosity that exists toward the pro-Beijing government is strong”?

Discussion Questions: 

Discuss the following questions with the rest of the class, or write down your answers on a separate sheet of paper:

  1. Compare the responses to COVID-19 in Hong Kong and in Kibera.
    • Can you identify any similarities between their responses? How did their responses differ?
    • Which locality, in your opinion, faced more challenges in responding to the pandemic? Use evidence from the reporting to support your answer. 
  2. Think about your answers to the warm-up questions and the steps your community took to stop the virus’s spread.
    • Does your community's response to COVID-19 have more in common with Kibera's response, or with Hong Kong's? Explain your answer.
    • What challenges did your community face in responding to the virus? How do those challenges compare to the challenges facing communities in Kibera and Hong Kong?
  3. In this lesson, you’ve explored both a written article and a segment of broadcast journalism. Both communicated under-reported stories of how communities respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • What similarities and differences can you identify between how the journalists communicate their respective stories? For example, how does each piece use interviews, images, description, etc.?
    • What medium, in your opinion, is most effective in communicating the story of how communities are responding to COVID-19, and why?

Extension Activities:

Option 1: Explore COVID-19 in other places

This lesson has taken you to two places that have taken steps to address COVID-19, Hong Kong and to Kibera, Kenya.  In the following activity, you will apply what you learned about these places to further an analysis of how COVID-19 is affecting communities in different parts of the world:

Choose two places out of the list that follows and explore more Pulitzer Center-supported reporting on how communities in those places are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic: 

Next, write an essay, or put together a presentation for your classmates, that explains the following: 

  • The challenges faced by your chosen places in responding effectively to the virus
  • The similarities and differences in how they chose to respond
  • How what you learned compares to your own experiences taking steps to stop the spread of the virus 

Option 2: Reporting project

Apply what you learned from reading and watching Henry Owino and Nick Schifrin’s reporting in Kenya and Hong Kong to complete a reporting project yourself. Pulitzer Center grantees have reported all over the world on how communities are responding to the pandemic, and now we’d love your help creating a report about how your community has reacted and worked to stop the spread of the virus.

To undertake your reporting project, you can employ the same tools that Owino and Schifrin used to tell the stories:

  • Interviewing community members and government officials
  • Researching policies created by officials and community organizations
  • Taking photographs and capturing video that communicates what your community looks like to an outside audience

Once you’ve gathered the information you’ll use to put together your reporting project, you can communicate what you learned using a medium of your choice—write an article, create a video using programs like iMovie, or record a podcast using GarageBand or other software. For more resources on how to complete a reporting project, explore the Pulitzer Center’s Journalist’s Toolbox series which features award-winning journalists sharing tips on using photography, descriptive writing, and interviewing (forthcoming) to tell under-reported stories. 

Educator Notes: 

Common Core Standards: 

Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging.

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