An update from Liberia Director, Chloe Brett:
One month ago Liberia declared its schools open. It was a hugely important step in the recovery of the country that has suffered most from the region’s Ebola outbreak.
Over the course of the last month schools across Liberia have gradually adopted new safety protocols including chlorine spray, hand washing stations and teacher training. Working in partnership with the UN-led Education Consortium to help roll out these protocols, Street Child provided 50 schools in Grand Bassa County with the means to reopen.
The outlook of the impressive collaborative effort made by Street Child along with 24 other NGO’s and government agencies to get all of the nation’s schools open is sadly still a bleak one. Schools are open but classrooms are far from full.
For the majority of children, returning to school simply isn’t yet an option. Though school at primary level is technically free there are numerous other costs involved: school uniforms, shoes, exercise books, text books, pens, bags and contributions to the school’s Parent Teacher Association (not to mention that there are in fact a very limited number of spaces in these so-called free schools). In a country where the majority of the population were already surviving on less than $1 per day, Ebola has left a struggling economy resulting in job losses and a depletion of market trading, making school unachievable for large swathes of the population.The entire country has been affected in some way by the disease and in particular those who live in the worst-affected areas where fear, sadness and a failing economy pervade the community.
Arguably the worst and saddest situations are those of the children left behind from the 4000+ Ebola deaths. Thanks to Street Child’s support, 2000 Ebola-orphaned children in Liberia have been provided with emergency relief, counselling and resettlement with new caregivers. Usually, in the majority of cases the most suitable new caregiver for the child lives in the same community as them, meaning they too have been severely affected by the economic impact of Ebola.
The struggle to cope with an increased family is widespread. These new caregivers are often themselves grieving for loved ones during this struggle. But one thing is for sure, their passion to educate all of the children in their family is their top priority.
As a result, Street Child’s social workers are busier than ever. And thanks to the relentless work of our tireless staff, Street Child has been able to support 1,500 orphaned children back to school in Montserrado, Margibi, Grand Bassa and Bomi.
It is a complex situation. As Mohamed, 11, from Banjor Camp Monrovia – one of the country’s worst affected communities – explains: “I’m not happy, my Mamma and Pappa died, I can’t feel happy about school, about anything. But I know it will be good to see my friends every day and to learn something again.”