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Farm Radio Weekly

Sierra Leone and Liberia: Radio stations broadcast school lessons

Authorities have closed schools in Liberia and Sierra Leone because of the Ebola outbreak. There is no immediate prospect of reopening classrooms, so a growing number of students are receiving their lessons on the radio.

Tuan Tarper is a teacher in Monrovia. He says, “If a child stops learning for too long, you will see that child begin to decline.”

Maxim Blateen is the director of communications for Liberia’s Ministry of Education. He says: “In the midst of Ebola, the Ministry of Education has embarked on this program because we want our children to be engaged academically … we wanted to bring them something to keep them learning.”

Dozens of local FM stations are broadcasting 30-minute lessons at least twice a day. The broadcasts are aimed at children aged six and older. More than one million people in Liberia have tuned in since the programs first aired in mid-September.

In Sierra Leone, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is partnering with aid agencies to target more than one and a half million schoolchildren. Forty-one stations broadcast four one-hour lessons daily.

Many lessons are purely academic. But others focus on health and hygiene to help stop the spread of Ebola. Each lesson is followed by an assignment.

Many children appreciate and enjoy the radio lessons, but most say it is not the same as going to school.

Hannah Bangure is an 11-year-old student at Services Primary School in Freetown, Sierra Leone. She misses spending time with her teacher and getting help on assignments. Ms. Bangure says, “For me, the lessons … on the radio are basic … but [they are] helping me to stay in touch with my education, rather than just playing all the time.”

Thirteen-year-old Mary Cole is a student at the Paynesville Kindergarten School in Liberia. She says, “It isn’t easy. This is radio, so you have to listen attentively to what they are saying. But we are getting it gradually.”

Education officials are aware that radio lessons are not a perfect solution, but they say they are doing the best they can, and adjusting as they go.

Mr. Blateen says radio lessons are currently the only way to help children remember the things they have already learned. He encourages children to listen to the radio, and think about and learn from the lessons.

He also wants teachers to help raise awareness of Ebola. He says: “They need to engage themselves and work with the community to fight this deadly Ebola, because that is the only way we will resume our activities and reopen schools.”

Mary Cole hopes this will happen soon. She says, “The government does not want us to be infected, so the decision [to keep schools closed] is in the right direction. But I am missing school very much. I hope Ebola will go so I can return to school.”

To read the full article on which this story was based, School lessons by radio in Sierra Leone, Liberia, go to: http://www.irinnews.org/report/100838/school-lessons-by-radio-in-sierra-leone-liberia

To hear an audio piece on radio lessons in Sierra Leone, go to: https://soundcloud.com/irinfilms/school-lessons-by-radio-in

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