Teacher unionists have engaged in an awareness-raising campaign, “Ebola is everybody’s business”, in The Gambia, thanks to global financial support provided by Education International (EI).
The funding was in response to a request from EI’s affiliate, the National Executive Committee of the Gambia Teachers’ Union (GTU) asking EI for the necessary financial means to organise and implement an Ebola preparedness and response programme.
The Gambia not affected
In its 7 October request, GTU highlighted that, as of 28 September, there were 3,338 recorded deaths from Ebola. This represented 47 per cent of the 7,178 people known to have been infected, predominantly in Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Incidents of Ebola were also recorded in Nigeria, with official sources saying that the disease has now been contained in that country and in Senegal.
“Although an Ebola-free country, the country’s preparedness and response plan requires the participation of each and every one of us in The Gambia in the fight against this deadly disease,” said GTU General Secretary Antoinette Corr-Jack.
Given the high number of students with whom teachers interact, and the fact that many students in border schools come from Senegal, the importance of having an effective prevention strategy cannot be over-emphasised, she went on to state.
She also explained that since Ebola symptoms generally appear between two and 21 days after infection, there is a significant time window during which an infected teacher or student can escape detection, allowing him/her to travel, subsequently possibly infecting others. Records have shown that the disease has claimed the lives of 22 teachers from Sierra Leone, also a major concern for the GTU, Corr-Jack said.
GTU advocacy plan
The GTU leadership therefore committed itself to consolidate the national efforts by setting up a prevention strategy through communication.
The objectives of this programme, reaching schools in all seven GTU regions, through 21 clusters, are, amongst others, to:
- Update teachers and society at large about the outbreak of the highly contagious disease
- Advise them on available tools, guidelines and strategies for the prevention and containment of the virus
- Support national efforts in meeting the World Health Organisation’s recommendations on Ebola
Communication campaign materials were also developed: 2,000 posters, 1,000 brochures and 1,000 stickers. Seven community radio programmes and two TV talk shows further mentioned or focused on this teacher-led initiative.
EI: Teachers vital to sustainability
“We command our Gambian colleagues, GTU, for conceptualising and successfully implementing their campaign fighting Ebola,” said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “Once again, we are clearly reminded how teachers are vital to their communities’ development and sustainability.”