Ebola crisis leads to school lessons by radio

A woman from Sierra Leone shops with her children.

As fear of Ebola's spread closes schools in Sierra Leone, the government is set to begin delivering education to sutdents by radio.

(Transcript from SBS World News Radio)

Schools in Sierra Leone have remained closed at the start of what would have been a new term, because of concerns over the spread of the Ebola disease.

With no sign of an early end to the crisis, there are concerns about how school age children are keeping themselves occupied.

The government is set to begin one new way of delivering education to them - by radio.

Van Nguyen reports.

(Click on the audio tab above to hear the full report)

Sierra Leone is one of the West African countries worst affected by the Ebola outbreak that has now killed more than 3,000 people.

Authorities in Sierra Leone have postponed re-opening schools after the summer holidays, as one of a series of measures to try to contain the outbreak.

But some people have voiced concerns about the safety and conduct of children unable to return to classes.

Senior teacher, Idrissa Kanu, thinks a lack of organised structure, like schools, could lead to misbehaviour.

"The pupils also have their own problem, sitting in their homes or houses presently without going to school. Their minds may be played away, their minds may be triggered to do any things contrary to their educational programs. For example stealing, gambling - you know - fornication and all the rest of it."

Memunatu Turay is a civil servant and a parent.

She's also worried about children being in the streets rather than at school.

"Some of them are also out selling. They are not even protecting themselves from this disease. They are at risk because they are out there selling and when you go out you see them, they are not protecting themselves, they are mingling with different people so they are in high risk."

Zainab Tunkara Clarkson heads a community group in Sierra Leone.

She's worried about children playing outdoors, unaware of the dangers of Ebola.

"Children are always playing outside. They're touching each other, they're hugging each other. Even if you say to them: don't touch, they're playing football. You see them every day doing such things, so it is about telling them and educating them."

The Sierra Leone government has come up with one plan to try to keep children indoors - and keeping up with some of their schoolwork.

It's planning to deliver education across the country by means of radio, to students staying at home.

Sylvester Mehew is chairman of an association of Sierra Leonean teachers.

He believes children still need to be learning while schools remain closed.

"Well it will not be like the classroom, but that's the best option we have for now. You make do with what you have at your disposal and it will also strengthen our educational system. It is better than the children sitting at home without being taught. And also it will help the teachers when they listen to experienced people presenting programs or lessons over the radio. They will learn from it and when everyone starts to teach they will do it efficiently. And it will help to have a remarkable impact on the performance of our children in both internal and external examinations."

Sierra Leone's government says at least 22 teachers have died from Ebola.

It says hundreds of healthcare workers have also been infected.

Brima Michael Turay, who works for the school broadcasting project, says keeping schools closed is the best course of action for now.

"We have lost over 22 teachers in this fight against the Ebola virus and so one would imagine that if we had let the schools open obviously those teachers would have been interacting with the students, and God only knows how many students would have contracted the disease and how many families at home would have also contracted the disease as a result. So that's the reason why we close the schools."

Radio presenters are volunteering to help deliver the school lessons.

Suliaman Storm Koroma is station manager of Radio Democracy 98.1.

"I think such programs will be very, very important because as students are not going to school now because of the Ebola virus, so if we have such programs, you know, in different radio stations we have students could have themselves concentrating or listening to different programs on air, I think that will be an advantage."

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, says that over the next six months, it hopes to train 2,500 Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone to care for children.

UNICEF says that overall, it needs $200 million to help children and families affected by the Ebola crisis - but so far it has only received a quarter of this amount.




Source World News Australia


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