Guinea, Liberia to Reopen Schools Closed by Ebola

    18 February, 2015

    From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

    Children in Guinea started their school year in January. Schools were closed there for five months because of Ebola. In Liberia, the schools are to reopen February 16, 2015.

    The change shows progress on ending the epidemic for both countries. However, not everyone is sure the countries should reopen their schools.

    Sampson Wesseh's kids ask him every day. "Papa, when will we return to school?"

    Guinea, Liberia to Reopen Schools Closed by Ebola
    Passengers sit under a poster warning people on Ebola Virus at the Malabo International Airport in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Jan, 16, 2015.

    Mr. Wesseh is glad the Liberian government plans to reopen schools in February. Authorities shut them in July 2014 when the number of Ebola cases increased quickly.

    "My kids have been sitting home doing nothing. Nothing like education has been going on...The more the children sit home, the more they get dull," Wesseh said.

    Officials say schools will have safety measures in place. They will provide thermometers to check children's' temperature and chlorine for hand washing.

    But some Liberian parents say they may keep their children home a while longer.

    Mother Christine Thomas says she wants the World Health Organization to declare Liberia Ebola-free before she returns her children to school.

    "My fear here is that if the children go to school and they come down with Ebola it will not be too good for the parents. We will be feeling bad, So we are hoping and praying that there will be a little bit of debate on the opening of schools," Thomas said.

    Is this decision putting children in a dangerous situation?

    In Guinea, teachers are also concerned. They worry about the crowding in their schools. It is hard to prevent contact between children.

    Teacher Amadou Diallo says the children play together during breaks at school. No one can stop them from doing that. The students also share food. He thinks it is too dangerous to reopen schools at this time.

    A person can get Ebola from contact with the body fluids of an infected person. Public health experts say most usual contact between people is not very dangerous.

    Several teachers in Guinea told VOA that they have been trained on Ebola, along with 80,000 of their co-workers.

    Civil society groups said they would protest if the schools did not reopen. These groups say they will go out to schools and check on safety measures. They will make sure there are hand-washing stations. The groups will check to see that schools are taking students' temperatures every day.

    Liberia and Sierra Leone are using radio and television to broadcast at-home lessons. However, these lessons are not a good substitute for a classroom.

    I'm Jill Robbins.