Lessons that Liberia can learn from Ebola and education

During the time of national emergency in Liberia, I was particularly interested in the education of our children. It was already facing numerous challenges before the outbreak of Ebola. When the system shut down, my worries about its improvement became more eminent.

Education empowers us to think critically and act logically and rationally. This is what I think education is. Therefore, I don’t think it should be compromised for anything. In a nation that is conscious about its development and citizens’ advancement, education should be highly prioritised. Because education is about training and developing the human mind. 

There is no development if people’s minds are not developed and trained. I’m reminded here of Mama as she would always say to me: “Use your head.” She normally said that when she wanted results from me a kid.

I understood the closure of schools during these troubled times. For schools with small and smaller children, I perfectly agreed. And I agreed on the basis that children need a lot of supervision for their protection during these times. But at least, adults should be able to take care of themselves at schools – particularly the universities.

If we could go to work every day during the week and stay safe, why couldn’t we as adults go to university? Is it not the same as adults going to churches, mosques and our various places of worship? 

Our schools reopened in February and students have gone back to their classrooms. But should there not have been some other measures the people running education at the national level put in place to ensure that the nation’s human resources would still be developed? Don’t we have experts in emergency education strategies to do some mappings for the system? 

Brenda Moore of the the Kids’ Educational Engagement Project gives work to children during the Ebola outbreak

I believe education is critical to all. Even during emergencies such as Ebola, we don’t even see education as a necessary intervention in emergency response. All the humanitarian donations and reliefs were for food, water and sanitation and healthcare.

How many organisations brought in education materials as relief? Could we have made our libraries and reading rooms more accessible to the public?

Education cannot wait and should not wait for “normal days”. The failure to give it high priority in humanitarian response could render entire generations uneducated, disadvantaged and unprepared to contribute to their society’s recovery.

I really don’t think we needed to totally shut down our educational activities. During times like these, we need more education and education initiatives and the classrooms, to me, are the best place for this. It is a place where like-minded people are and the messages on the prevention of Ebola could be used for better comprehension and application. This could lessen the psychosocial impact of the virus by giving an atmosphere of normality, stability, structure and hope.

One approach which could have been adopted earlier is the community level approach. Children could have been gathered in small groups to be taught. On front or back porches, under trees, in hallways or whatever space available and usable. Preventive health education could have been the major lessons, though their speaking and writing skills are also key.

When our children were out of school because of Ebola, I got home from work and made sure to teach my children something before they went to sleep. Even if it’s for just an hour, they will learn. It helped. Though I taught for some years, I still do know that teaching children is a challenge and many think they do not have the grace for it. But one thing I can say for sure from my experiences is that teaching children is fun.