Liberia needs to help students and teachers affected by Ebola

I woke up one day and decided to take a walk around and see how badly the deadly Ebola virus has affected my country. I came across an empty classroom and there I met a couple of my friends who had been affected.

I asked them: what can we young people do to stop this virus? They said we are tired of sitting home and we need to get back to school. Their words reminded me of my own experience of not going to college because of this outbreak. In my first blog, published during the heat of the outbreak, my key recommendation was for government and international organisations to rethink the education plan because I feared we would have a generation that was unable to complete secondary education or even go to school.

I want to add my voice to many others who have been calling for a safe schools plan as we battle the Ebola disease. I want to tell the Liberian story, the story of how much suffering we students continue to encounter.

When the president called for the closure of all schools, it was a wise idea. But with no future plan it is now a bad idea, because many children are being left behind and most girls around the country are now planning marriages rather than completing their education.

Recently I spoke to one of my former secondary school principals about the effect of the Ebola virus. He told me: “This virus has killed our dream, because all long we have been fighting to get children in school  but the virus has won.

I have come to realise that school is the best place to stop the spread of the virus. But with all schools closed, teachers in private and faith-based schools are badly affected and face serious financial problems. The government continues to pay state school teachers – but what about private and faith-based school teachers? Are they not contributing to the national development? This situation is not just affecting teachers in Liberia but also Sierra Leone and Guinea.

I want to call on the various governments to provide incentives to those teachers to sustain their families. I am not just saying this because I see them but because I am also experiencing this. My mother is a teacher and my grandmother and grandfather are both teachers. I know how tough it has been for my family during this outbreak. Don’t pity their condition – but help them get through it by supporting the safe schools plan.