The Ebola epidemic has brought education to a halt in Sierra Leone, shuttering classrooms across the country, leaving all teachers, children, and communities affected as the disease continues to claim lives.
“Our Women’s Committee Chairperson has lost her husband and currently has a daughter in treatment,” said the Sierra Leone Teachers’ Union (SLTU) General Secretary Davidson Kuyateh. “Our past National Executive Officer, C.B.G. Gbondo, his wife, and a child have died, and many others colleagues and their families are quarantined.”
The situation in Sierra Leone is much like those in Guinea and Liberia.
“The Ebola epidemic is extremely severe here. Five districts have been quarantined, i.e. Kenema, Kailahun, Moyamba, Port Loko, and Bombali, and more are waiting. For now, the only district without Ebola is Kabala, due to its remoteness, a single road linking it to the rest of country.”
Unions are key partners
The Government has identified SLTU as an organisation able to help fight the Ebola epidemic, given its structures and activities. SLTU wants to make sure that it is involved productively in the fight against this deadly disease threatening the teaching profession in the country.
“We want to have a very active team around the country,” Kuyateh said. “We would like to assist the Ministry of Health and Sanitation or the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) in monitoring and supporting attempts by the youth and other organisations that were given the task of eradicating this scourge.”
To do this, SLTU intends to put in place a small team of coordinators – teachers – to monitor the team of 1,200 teachers identified by EOC as contact persons in the various wards. This team will be in charge of this operation over the various wards in the entire country.
“They will be trained before the activity and we do not expect them to get hurt in any way, as their task will only be to identify areas where there is a problem or an affected community, and then inform authorities who will act accordingly,” Kuyateh underlined.
He hopes that partners could help them, especially by facilitating the work of the monitoring team of about 25 teachers to reach out to communities and communicate on their activities.
EI: Support and solidarity
“We support this undertaking against Ebola from our Sierra Leone affiliates,” said Education International (EI) General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “This shows how crucial quality teachers and their unions are for sustainable and healthy communities.”