CHILDREN in Liberia, the country worst hit by the epidemic of
the Ebola virus, may be out of school for more than a year, in a
society "gripped by fear", an education manager reported this
Rufus Mandein, who is the education manager for FAWE-Liberia, a
charity dedicated to delivering education to girls and women, said
on Tuesday that he had been told that the "best-case scenario" for
the reopening of schools, closed across the nation in July, was
February next year, but that it could be as late as September.
"We have had to postpone, indefinitely, teacher-training," he
said. "None of the children are going to school, and they have
nowhere to play because of the outbreak. They just have to stay
Liberia is rebuilding its education infrastructure after a
14-year civil war. About 41 per cent of children in Liberia are
enrolled in primary school, and the adult literacy rate is 43 per
cent. Mr Mandein described the Ebola crisis as a "very big blow for
our education system".
The epidemic in West Africa is now the largest the world has
ever seen, and Liberia is the worst-affected country. Some of the
best doctors at its only academic referral hospital have died from
the disease, and the capacity to treat other diseases, including
malaria, has been affected. The outbreak had "exposed our very very
weak health system", Mr Mandein said.
He called for the promises of the international community to be
fulfilled. There are signs of hope: the Island Clinic, supported by
the UN, has opened in Monrovia, offering 120 beds. In addition, 17
new treatment facilities, supported by military troops from the
United States, are under construction; and the UN has established
an Ebola mission. Cuba is sending 165 medical staff, and China is
sending a mobile-laboratory team.
Mr Mandein said that FAWE-Liberia's current task was to educate
communities to respond to the crisis. "We need to reach out to our
project communities to create awareness; provide chlorine, soap,
sanitisers, and hand-washing utensils for the people we work with,"
he wrote in a recent blog. "Our approach must be holistic, and show
that we care not only for their educational need, but also their
health and physical well-being."
Once the schools reopen, he said, parents would have to be
reassured that their children could attend safely.
FAWE-Liberia is supported by Children in Crisis, a charity that
delivers education to children in remote, post-conflict
territories. This month, it launched a campaign, "A Chance to
Learn, a Chance in Life", to raise funds for children in
countries affected by the virus, and those in Afghanistan. All
funds donated by the British public between 3 September and 2
December will be matched, pound for pound, by the UK