FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, 14 April 2015 – As around 1.8 million children in Sierra Leone prepare to return to school this week after an eight month break due to Ebola, the Government of Sierra Leone, UNICEF and partners are working to ensure that children are safe through teacher training, hand-washing and regular temperature checks.
“This marks a major step in the normalisation of life in Sierra Leone,” said Roeland Monasch, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone. “It is important that all children get into school including those who were out of school before the Ebola outbreak. Education for all is a key part of the recovery process for the country.”
Similar safety protocols are in place in neighbouring Guinea and Liberia, where schools reopened in January and February respectively. In Guinea, more than 1.3 million children have returned to school while in Liberia preliminary data indicates that at least 800,000 students have resumed classes. This number continues to increase as more schools become compliant with the protocols for safe school reopening. Cases of Ebola continue to be reported in Sierra Leone, but are well down from levels seen at the end of 2014.
Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology expects all schools – more than 8,000 - should reopen, and it is hopeful that the 2014/15 academic curriculum can still be covered. A small number of junior secondary schools have been open since 24 March for junior secondary school examinations.
To support the return to school, UNICEF Sierra Leone facilitated the training of 9,000 teachers in Ebola prevention, safety guidelines and psycho-social support. UNICEF is also supplying 24,300 hand washing stations, enough for three in every school, as well as cleaning equipment to prepare school buildings.
“Even as we put these extra measures in place to make schools safe places to learn, we must continue to maintain vigilance in the fight against the disease until it is completely eliminated,” Monasch added.
In addition, 1.8 million school kits will be distributed to all learners. Some 17,000 solar radios are being distributed to less privileged children in rural communities. Since October 2014, UNICEF has supported the government in running daily emergency radio education programmes to allow children to continue learning at home during the Ebola crisis.
Figures from the Sierra Leone Education Country Status Report 2013 indicate 233,000 children were not attending school prior to the Ebola crisis.
UNICEF’s support to the Government of Sierra Leone on the return to school is being funded by generous support from the United States (USAID/OFDA), the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden (SIDA), Germany, Japan, Norway, Italy, UAE, Canada and Iceland UNICEF National Committee.
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