Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to school, but not for children in Sierra Leone...

It's "back to school" for many children. It's all over Facebook. Pictures of children with their backpacks on, ready to go back to school or for some for the first time ever. It's an exciting day for children and their parents and maybe a little sad for some too. However, it's often seen as the start of something new. 

This year, children in Sierra Leone are not so fortunate. They don't know when they will go back to school. Some children were not even able to finish school last year because schools in Kenema and Kailahun closed early. Exams have been postponed indefinitely. Now, although the official summer holiday is almost over, schools in the entire country may not re-open for months. No one knows when. It all depends on the situation and whether or not the Ebola outbreak is under control. For now, it doesn't look like that will happen anytime soon. Schools will remain closed in the hope to help halt the spread of the disease. 


Since summer schools have also been banned this means that children will be home for months. I am not really sure how that works for most families but I suppose they will have to manage. I suppose if both parents do work (often not the case) there are usually other relatives around that can look after the children, or the older children simply look after the younger ones. Seeing as many people prefer to stay home these days anyway, maybe they will cope. I know some parents are keen on making sure their children continue to learn, but there is only so much you can do at home without any materials. Some families don't allow their children to play outside anymore, just in case another child is sick on the compound. So, it sounds like most children will be staying indoors for a while. 

For those children (at least 70) who have been orphaned during this outbreak, the question is whether or not they will have the means to go back to school again. But there are of course more urgent questions at hand for them: Who will take them in? Who will provide for them? Will they receive the basics of shelter, food and water? 

This outbreak will take it's toll on many people, young and old, whether they get 'the disease' or not there will be a negative impact on many of the country's existing systems. This includes the educational system. 

This week and next, while many children all around the world are going back to school, let's remember the children in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. And let's remember their teachers as well, some of which have already succumbed to the disease. Hoping for a brighter future when this is all over.

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