Imagine if school was out for more than six months. It’s a scenario that school-aged children in Sierra Leone have been facing as a result of school closures due to the Ebola outbreak. Thanks to a partner program combining the efforts of the country’s government, UNICEF, and other development organizations, many schoolchildren are getting their daily dose of education via the radio. Since October, Sierra Leone’s 41 government radio stations (and the country’s lone television station) have been broadcasting lessons previously written and recorded by teachers in an attempt to prevent the country’s youth from losing any hard-fought academic progress. Since school is about socialization as well as academics, organizations are also organizing small mentoring groups and clubs in lieu of official classroom gatherings. Although radio is a prominent and popular way for Sierra Leoneans to get information, only about 25% of the population actually own radios, which means there are likely a large percentage of schoolchildren who are missing out on these lessons as well. In a country where only about 33% of girls and 40% of boys even attend secondary school, and the national literacy rate hovers just below 45%, positive gains towards building a more literate, educated society can be quickly lost. Although the radio education program isn’t ideal, until schools reopen, it is serving as a vital way for young Sierra Leoneans to continue their learning and maintain hope for a brighter future.
Image © Tolu Bade/Courtesy of UNICEF