Education in the Time of Ebola: A Student’s Perspective
Early one morning, I woke up and decided to take a walk to see how badly has the deadly Ebola virus affected my country. I came across an empty classroom where I met couple of my friends. I asked them what young people can do do to stop this virus, but all they said was, “We are tired of sitting at home. We need to get back to school.” Their words reminded me of my own story – I am not going to college because of this outbreak.
In my first thoughts during the heat of the outbreak, my key recommendation was for government and international organisations to rethink the education shut-down plan. I feared for a generation that was unable to complete secondary education or even go to school due to the outbreak.
I want to add my voice to the others calling for a safe school plan as we battle the Ebola disease. I want to tell the Liberian story, the story of how much suffering we students continue to experience during the outbreak.
When the president called for the closure of all schools, it was a wise idea at the time, but with no future plan, it is now a bad idea. Many children are left behind, and most girls are now planning marriages around the country rather than completing their education.
Recently, I spoke to one of my former secondary school principals about the effect of the Ebola virus. “This virus has killed our dream because all along we have been fighting to get children in school, but the virus has beat us. I met one of my students, who is very smart, but now pregnant, so I asked her ‘why now?’ And she told me, ‘There is no job to do, and schools are closed.’”
I have come to realise that school is the best place to stop the spread of the virus. It is easier for kids to be told wash their hands than to have them stop playing with their friends. Also, the government continues to pay teachers, but what about those teachers that are impacting children in private and faith-based schools? Are they not contributing to national development? They are currently the worst off, facing serious financial problems. Their kids no longer enough have to eat. I know this situation is not just affecting teachers in Liberia, but Sierra Leone and Guinea as well.
I want to call on the various governments to provide help to these teachers so they can sustain their families. I am not just saying this because I see them, but because I am also experiencing them – my mother is a teacher, and my grandmother and grandfather are both teachers, and I know how tough it has been for my family in the heat of this outbreak. Don’t pity their condition. Help them get through it by supporting a Safe School Plan in Emergency Areas.
Submitted by Beyan Flomo Pewee, a Peace Child International Task Force Member and A World at School Global Youth Ambassador based in Monrovia, Liberia.
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