On the 14th April, schools reopened in Sierra Leone. For the first time since I arrived in November I see on my way to work lots of children in colourful school uniforms on the streets. According to the media it’s 1.7 million children countrywide, approximately 35% of the population.
I chatted a bit with my national colleagues, almost all of them are parents themselves, to find out how the “Ebola-safe” school opening is organized. Three staff member, mostly cleaners or guards, were trained to measure the temperature of the children and how to mix the chlorine solution for hand washing. Every morning they follow the same procedure as at our office door: Thermometer ready and hands under water.
In case a child is found to have a high body temperature, it is moved to a special isolation room. If the state of the child is not getting better, the school will contact the Ebola emergency line 117. Until the present day, that was luckily never necessary. I heard in Makeni, the capital city of the province Bombali, they had to isolate 2 children. However, soon it turned out that they were harmless.
Usually the school year in Sierra Leone started in September and went until June / July. In the rainy season they had holidays. Considering that 2/3 of the school year already passed the government “moved” the school year from April to December. At least that’s what I heard. The government further announced that there will be no tuition fees for the next 2 years – as an incentive to make sure that all children are indeed going back to school. I just hope this decision doesn’t mean less or lower salaries to teachers or less equipment for schools…
Of course I also asked my colleagues if their children were looking forward to go to school again: All of them answered with a clear YES. They said their children found it extremely boring to sit at home. Understandable, after 8 months in a row.
Welthungerhilfe supported the re-opening of schools in Freetown with the provision of hand wash stations, chlorine and soap.