Sierra Leone Student: 'Despite Ebola, I Am Learning'


Although the Ebola crisis has disrupted school attendance in Sierra Leone, this special radio program allows children to maintain their academic progress.

Instead of attending fourth grade class at United Methodist Primary School in Aberdeen, Sierra Leone, 12-year-old Rugiatur (Rugi) Kamara tunes into classes on her family’s portable radio.

With schools closed because of the threat of Ebola, “the radio teaching program is a blessing to our children, so we will take every advantage of it,” says Baby Kamara, Rugi’s mother.

Ebola has disrupted all pupils’ academic year, say World Vision staff.

“Ebola has made me stop going to school,” says Rugi, “and also my mother don’t sell [food in the market] anymore, and my father don’t go to work.” Rugi’s father worked at a water taxi service that shut down for lack of business after the Ebola outbreak.

For Rugi, the radio is a lifeline.

Sitting under the mango tree in front of her family’s home, Rugi tunes the radio carefully until she hears, “Good day, boys and girls, how are you? Today’s lesson is on addition. …”

When the reception falters, she lifts the radio close to her ear. “I don’t want to miss anything,” she says.  
When the class is over, Rugi writes her assignment, and her mother removes the battery to save it—it previously died during math lessons.

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

World Vision helped Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports department set up educational programming for national television and 28 community radio stations to cover the country. The organization donated equipment and funded recording sessions and accommodations for teachers who prepared the classes. Broadcasts began in October.

The program has two shifts: primary lessons in the morning and secondary subjects in the afternoon. At the end of each session, pupils are given an assignment to prepare.

Sierra Leone has a population close to 6 million people, and nearly half are under the age of 18. Completing school can be difficult for children, even when a crisis hasn’t affected learning. About 73 percent of boys and 76 percent of girls participate in primary school, but by secondary school the participation rate drops to 33 percent for girls and 40 percent for boys.

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