Schools have reopened across Sierra Leone nine months after they were closed because of the Ebola outbreak. The government hopes that the studying time lost by the country’s 1.8 million children can still be made up.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) says that the reopening of Sierra Leone’s schools marks “a major step in the normalisation of life”.
New cases of Ebola continue to be reported in Sierra Leone but numbers are declining. To allay fears and ensure that there are no new Ebola cases, the first day at school has been spent on Ebola education and going through basic hygiene rules. Secondary school teacher Nancy Banya told the BBC’s Newsday programme that after welcoming the children there would be a quiet time to reflect on the lives of “those friends who we lost”.
Turnout has been generally low in schools across Sierra Leone on the first day back. “There are mostly freshmen in school today,” one school principal told me. He said less than 10% of the pupils reported today. Most of the schools in the east of the city reported only trickles of students.
Across the country the picture is pretty much the same. At Jaiama Secondary School in the eastern Kono district just about a dozen showed up out of more than 500 on the roll. But those kids who turned up looked smartly dressed and excited to restart their life disrupted by the outbreak.
Some parents have questioned what can be achieved in the remaining three months of the academic year.