Frontline Stories

I Am Still Learning… Despite Ebola

12-year-old Rugi sits under a mango tree and waits for her school lesson to start. Today’s class is Math – her favourite subject.

As the class begins, Rugi smiles and takes out her books, and the teacher says, “Good day, boys and girls. How are you? Today’s lesson is on addition.”

But this is a very different lesson. There are no chairs, no tables, no blackboard and no other pupils.

“Ebola has made me stop going to school,” explains Rugi, who was in Grade 4 at a primary school in Sierra Leone.

Rugi is one of the thousands of children whose education has been disrupted because of the virus spreading through her country that makes it dangerous to gather in large groups. She now takes classes listening to lessons over the radio.

The radio and TV teaching programmes are run by the Ministry for Education, Youth and Sports in Sierra Leone, to help ensure children are able to keep learning even when they are away from school.

The classes are broadcast on 28 community radio stations across the country and also on national television. Primary 1-6 teaching programmes broadcast from 10am for an hour and 30 minutes every day, while the secondary broadcast starts at 2pm.

World Vision has supported the educational programmes by providing computers for teachers and solar lights, so they can still prepare their lessons even if power fails. World Vision has also provided voice recorders, stationery, memory sticks and DVDs for storing the lessons.

As Rugi’s lesson continues, the reception falters and she lifts the radio close to her ears. “I don’t want to miss anything as there will be an assignment after the lesson,” she says.

When she lifts the radio close to her ears, the reception improves and she smiles while she continues to listen.

When the teaching comes to an end, Rugi starts her homework and her mother, Kamara, removes the radio batteries to keep the power from draining, so Rugi can listen again tomorrow.

“As schools remain closed, the radio teaching programme is a blessing to our children, so we will take every advantage of it,” Kamara says.

For Kamara’s family, it is not just her daughter’s education that has been disrupted by Ebola. Her business of selling food has stopped, and her husband’s work at a water taxi service going to and from the airport has also been shut down, since the number of flights coming into the country has dramatically reduced.

Though facing many challenges, the family is grateful that Rugi can continue her education.

Rugi says, “Despite Ebola, I am still learning.”

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