12-year-old Rugiatu sits under a mango tree and waits for her school lessons to start. Today it’s maths – her favourite subject.
As the class begins, Rugi smiles and takes out her books, as the teacher says: “Good day boys and girls. How are you? Today’s lesson is on addition.”
But this is a lesson with a difference. There are no chairs, no tables, no blackboard and no other pupils.
“Ebola has made me stop going to school,” explains Rugi, who used to be in class four at a primary school in Aberdeen, Freetown in Sierra Leone.
Rugi is one of thousands of children whose education has been disrupted because of the virus spreading through her country.
Rugi is one of thousands of children whose education has been disrupted because of the virus spreading through her country, which makes it too dangerous to gather in large groups. She now takes her school classes listening to lessons over the radio.
The radio and TV lessons are being run by the Ministry for Education, Youth and Sports in Sierra Leone, to help ensure children are able to keep learning even when they are away from school.
The classes are played out on 28 community radio stations across the country and the national television station. Primary level 1-6 teaching programmes broadcast at 10am for an hour and a half every day. The secondary broadcast starts at 2pm.
World Vision has supported the lessons by providing computers for teachers and solar lights, so they are able to prepare their lessons even if power fails. World Vision has also provided voice recorders, stationery, memory sticks and DVDs to store the lessons.
As Rugi’s lesson continues, the reception on the radio breaks up a little and she lifts the set close to her ears. “I don’t want to miss anything as there will be an assignment after the lesson,” she says.
When she lifts the radio close to her ears the reception improves and she smiles and then continues to listen.
As the teaching comes to an end, Rugi starts her homework and her mother, Baby Kamara, removes the radio batteries and keeps them safe, so they can listen again tomorrow.
“As schools remain closed the radio teaching programme is a blessing to our children, so we will take every advantage of it,” Baby Kamara says.
“As schools remain closed the radio teaching programme is a blessing to our children, so we will take every advantage of it”
For Baby Kamara’s family, it is not just her daughter’s education that has been disrupted by Ebola. Her own business, selling food, has stopped and her husband, who works on a water taxi going to and from the airport is also out of work, as the number of flights coming in to the country has dramatically reduced.
Faced with all these challenges, the family are grateful Rugi can continue her education.
Rugi says: “Despite Ebola, I am still learning.”