Ebola-Ravaged Sierra Leone: School Classes Broadcast on Radio to Reach Out to Children

The Ebola virus has seemingly left no stone unturned in turning West African countries upside down. As the epidemic is leading to more and more deaths, schools in Sierra Leone have been closed since July to prevent the situation from worsening further. But, since this is impacting negatively on the education of the children, the government decided to broadcast classes on radio in an attempt to reach out to the children.

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Societies of countries of West Africa ravaged by deadly Ebola virus are being undermined on more than one level: as quality of life is being affected, with the uncontrolled propagation of the virus accounting for increased death rates, the education of the young population has not been left untouched. Because of the current epidemic, more than one million children are being deprived of proper education. Schools were closed back in July in Sierra Leone when the government called for a state of emergency after 3 500 were killed in the epidemic all across the affected countries of West Africa, with more than 600 from Sierra Leone alone.

With a view to countering this problem that will undoubtedly have long-term negative effects onto the literacy rate of the country, Sierra Leone announced that the class lessons will now be broadcast on radio to ensure that children still receive the adequate schooling in spite of the sad state of affairs. Classes for a broad range of subjects will be made accessible on the radio for four hours per day. The broadcasting will occur for six days per week on 41 radio stations together with the only TV channel of the country.

“The plan is to provide a suitable option for our school-going population as the entire school system has been disrupted since the outbreak of the Ebola disease,” said Education Minister Minkailu Bah.

However, only 25 % of the population of Sierra Leone own radios, with even fewer of the families owning a television: around 2 % or even less have access to a TV. However, the deadly virus is spreading out its tentacles further and further, and something has to be done to minimise the damage being done, however little. Moreover, schools are expected to remain closed till next year. The authorities are worried lest the children “end up being drop-outs”. Any serious change in the education sector would ultimately affect the economy of the country, and hence, measures have to be taken right now.

Parents have had mixed feelings about the decision of having classes over the radio. Many of them are positive about the announcement: ‘something’ is always better than nothing at all, right?

“This is not the type of tuition we used to know for our children, but we have little option. Any means to educate our children rather than leaving them idle is welcome. Otherwise, we are going to have a generation of illiterates,” said Sam Mbayo, a retired clerk from the eastern district of Kailahun

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