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Ebola two years on: Liberian children at school but challenges remain

A Liberian girl sings at the Monrovia Demonstration School on the first day of the 2015-16 academic year Picture: UNICEF/Grile

 

Ebola wreaked havoc in his beloved country, killing thousands of people and closing all of the schools for months.

But as Liberia slowly got back on to its feet, Moses Owen Browne was determined to spread the word that every child should get a quality education.

One of A World at School’s Global Youth Ambassadors, Moses worked with Liberia’s eight other GYAs to collect an incredible 75,000 signatures for the #UpForSchool Petition.

He liaised with local communities and schools in 13 of Liberia’s 15 counties, even travelling by river to reach remote areas. So he is well placed to assess where Liberia stands today, on the second anniversary of the Ebola outbreak that killed more than 11,000 people in three West African countries.

Moses sent us these thoughts on the progress made since schools reopened last year and what still needs to be done. You can also read about how Ebola disrupted the education of five million children.

 

Moses with A World at School co-founder Sarah Brown and the #UpForSchool Petition, which collected 10 million signatures

 

Everything was at a standstill in Liberia during the height of the Ebola outbreak. Although it is officially over, the immense negative impact is still being felt throughout the country.

The health sector is struggling to be restored. Many children are orphans and out of school.

The deadly disease has killed over 4800 people here, with 10,695 cases being reported across Liberia, according to the latest United Nations report.

Our next-door neighbour Guinea has just recorded new cases, which is worrisome for us in Liberia.

The education sector has a limited supply of teachers, low enrollment and classes are overpopulated. The Liberian economy is struggling to recover with basic commodities and prices are on the increase. A 25kg bag of rice once sold for L$1200 ($17) is now at L$1600 ($20).

From every indication, it may take a little longer before the actual recovery work can start.

The health sector needs rebuilding, enrollment in school will have to increase and basic social services such as safe drinking water, good sanitation and dealing with the trauma created in the minds of the people will take a little longer to heal.

Vee Moillaoh Sheriff, head administrator of Bass High School in Buchanan, looks at an empty classroom during the school closure

 

We remain watchful and very vigilant. The fight against the largest and most protracted Ebola epidemic in history is not over yet.

Schools have reopened, businesses across the country have restarted and everyone is hoping the situation will remain stable.

Hope can now be allowed that children and communities in Liberia will go back to normal life. But the challenges remain.

As we move towards the recovery phase, we call on national and international partners, donor organisations, the international community and staff to continue the fight against Ebola.

I think there is a need to focus on child protection, ensuring all children affected receive the appropriate support and get to live in a nurturing environment.

This will empower girls and boys in Liberia to maintain access to essential food security and livelihood services, to rebuild national socio-economic resilience to prevent future outbreaks.

Rebuilding health systems, restoring people’s trust in government, finding more effective ways to communicate with the public and jump-starting the economy are all major areas of intervention.

Read inspiring blogs by our Global Youth Ambassadors.