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Cautious return to school for children in Sierra Leone

Schools in Sierra Leone have finally reopened, after nine months of closure due to the Ebola crisis. This means education has now resumed in all three Ebola-affected countries, after Guinea reopened schools in January, followed by Liberia in February.

ChildFund Sierra Leone is working in partnership with the Department of Health and Education and the Ministry of Social Welfare to implement the infection prevention and control standards necessary to protect children returning to school.

To date, ChildFund has helped reopen 185 schools in Sierra Leone, including distribution of cleaning agents to decontaminate classrooms (which were used as holding centres for suspected Ebola patients during the crisis), training teachers and students in Ebola prevention, supplying hand-washing stations and hygiene kits, and providing text books.

“All schools in our partner communities have reopened,” confirms Yusufu Kamara, program manager at ChildFund Sierra Leone. “However, the turnout is not encouraging as most pupils still fear Ebola transmission since there are still isolated cases being reported.”

For those children who have returned, he says: “They are happy to see their friends who they have missed for quite a long time but they are also sad for those they have lost to Ebola.”

There is still much more to be done to provide schools with the resources they need and to help children readjust to being back in a learning environment. Yusufu says it will take some time for the situation to return to normal.

“Some children are in school without uniforms because those who are coming from Ebola-affected homes had their clothes burnt,” he says. “Some of the schools used as holding centres in the communities had their furniture destroyed. And there is an urgent need to provide water and sanitation facilities, as well as more hygiene kits, to those schools that have not yet received support.”

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