Ebola had a devastating effect in West Africa, but one of the most enduring consequences has been the impact on children’s education. During the crisis, schools were closed and some students missed out on two years of schooling. Many children have not been able to return to education because the main family breadwinner died. There is simply not enough money to afford the books, shoes or uniform needed for the school day.
Street Child has implemented a new programme in Liberia to combat this issue. In collaboration with Geneva Global, a philanthropic consulting company, and funded by the Luminos Fund, the six-month programme teaches a condensed curriculum of Grades 1 and 2 in a Speed School. Children can catch up on the classes they have missed, and return to school in September to begin Grade 3.
On February 20th, classrooms in Bomi and Montserrado counties opened for the Geneva Global programme. Before the end of 2017, this will enable 2,000 children to learn basic literacy and numeracy, and will aid their transition back into local government schools.
The community ethos behind the programme enhances its results. Everyone is involved in motivating the children. Classes take place in community areas such as church halls or spare classrooms in local schools. Teachers are trained in the new methods in order to pass them on. Engaging parents in the importance of education is also fundamental to the success of the Speed School initiative.
Henry Farnbullah is a parents’ engagement group facilitator. His job is to provide the link between parents and teachers, dealing with problems such as truancy and missing homework. He said: “What Street Child is doing here is wonderful. We have children who would not be in education if it were not for this programme. I see the work going on and I see the benefits of children staying in education.”
Geneva Global developed the Speed School concept for the Luminos Fund, which aims to provide education for the most disadvantaged children in Africa and around the world. The classes are currently running in Ethiopia, Liberia and Lebanon, and the concept is working extremely well. Through Speed School, over 80,000 children in West Africa and Ethiopia have gone back to class.
Liberia really needs programmes such as this. Almost 5,000 people died of Ebola in the country, and some poorer communities were hardest hit. Statistics show that there are almost half a million 7-12 year olds out of school. Overall 58% of primary-age children are currently missing out on education.
Peter, aged 10, is among those being taught. His textbook is full of written work, from times tables to spelling tests. He said: “I like to come to school. Coming back will help me and my family.”
“It is a challenge getting all the children up to speed – but they all want to learn and we have been given good training,” said Stanley M. Feik, one of the Geneva Global facilitators, who teaches a group of around 20 pupils. "I know this will benefit the children, helping many get back in to education and creating a bright future for themselves.”