The voice of reason

The children in Sierra Leone refuse to let the Ebola outbreak effect their studies as they tune in to the country’s radio stations every day for lessons.

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Courtesy of UNICEF / Tolu Bade. Sierra Leone children of all ages compensate missing school by listening to the radio everyday for hour-long lessons.

According to an article posted by NPR, nearly a million school-age children have been unable to attend their classes because of the government’s decision to lock up the classrooms to do the spread of Ebola which became in effect last July.

The government partnered with UNICEF, a children’s rights and emergency relief organization, launching a new radio educational program.This particular program allows teachers to broadcast hour-long lessons to 41 different radio stations as well as on the country’s only television channel.

After the launch of the program last Oct. with approximately 20 percent viewership, the show reached over 70 percent at its peak. On average, the UNICEF tallies a 50 percent audience for the broadcasts.

The broadcasts are tailored for younger children in the mornings as adolescents listen in the afternoons and evenings.

The Ebola crisis only threatened and weakened the progress made in Sierra Leone’s educational system, as the country has been working to restrengthen the schools after the decade-long civil war since 2002.

Many argue the radio lessons are not sufficient for children and their educational growth. Without the need to go to school, kids are surrendering their social stability as they are no longer interacting with teachers and their peers.

To compensate the lack of social setting for these, a handful of communities are facilitating informal classrooms multiple times a week were groups of students can meet for lessons with a mentor present.

The radio program is planning to continue broadcasting lessons as an added benefit to students when schools resume.

With the high level engagement among the children and communities, there should be a larger push in finding a solution to educational setbacks during this Ebola scare because although students may be listening to the radio for information, is one-hour a day enough to educate the future of Sierra Leone?

For a sample of one of the radio lessons please click here.

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