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Ebola Forces Sierra Leone Students to Learn by Radio

17-year- old Doris Ansumana listening to a radio school program in Freetown, Sierra Leone, October 20, 2014. (N.deVries/VOA).

17-year- old Doris Ansumana listening to a radio school program in Freetown, Sierra Leone, October 20, 2014. (N.deVries/VOA).

Ebola has struck hard in Sierra Leone. More than one million children have been unable to attend school because of the continuing crisis caused by the disease.

But classes are now broadcast on 41 radio stations and the country’s only television station. The educational programs are airing three hours daily, five days a week.

In the country’s capital, Freetown, 17-year-old student Doris Ansumana says radio broadcasts make a big change from her usual days at school. She says life has become boring – not interesting. She misses the social life involved in going to school and seeing other students.

Still, she says so far she is enjoying the radio lessons. She notes, however, that others do not have the chance to study because they must work.

Her guardian, Yabonett Sesay, also expresses concern about other young students because many are being forced into labor instead of study.

Ms. Sesay says some students are selling things because they do not have money. She says she watches Doris carefully to make sure she does her schoolwork.

Doris’s guardian suggests that the government extend broadcasts to night hours. She says everyone stays home at night.

Brima Michael Turay serves as deputy director for the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. He says the goal is to have the broadcasts take place from 11 in the morning until five in the afternoon.

He says the ministry worked hard to get teachers’ opinions and advice for the broadcasts. Mr. Turay says 30 have been called to help put together the broadcasts. All are qualified to teach at different levels. Subjects include mathematics, science and English.

Mr. Turay says parents must understand that the ministry cannot continually monitor their children.

“This has to be one of their greatest responsibilities. We can provide the service as a ministry, but if the parents who are at home do not participate, this is going to be a fruitless endeavor.”

The Sierra Leone Association of Journalists and the Independent Radio Network are directing the broadcasts. Several international partners, including UNICEF, are also working with the ministry.

The broadcasts teach and comfort. They tell children that they are not alone in the Ebola crisis. Mr. Turay says the broadcasts also advise children on how to protect themselves and others.

“Wash your hands. Do this, do that, so you don’t end up losing your life or losing a family member and all of that.”

The Ben Hirsh Intrim Child Center in Kenema, Sierra Leone, is caring for children directly affected by Ebola. They can go to the center after their parents have died.

Vandi Pujeh works at the center. He says employees are making sure the children listen to the broadcasts.

The Education, Science and Technology ministry will continue to present more programs. It has also plans to bring solar-powered radio to areas of Sierra Leone without electricity.

And that’s the VOA Learning English Education Report.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Nina DeVries reported this story for VOA from Freetown. Jeri Watson wrote it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in this Story

guardian - n. a person who looks after and is legally responsible for someone unable to manage his or her own life, often a child whose parents have died

deputy - n. an important assistant who helps the person who is the leader of a government, organization, etc.

monitor - v. to watch, observe, listen to, or check (something) for a special purpose over a period of time

fruitless - adj. unsuccessful, failed

comfort - n. a state or situation in which you are relaxed and do not have any physically unpleasant feelings caused by pain, heat, cold, etc.

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