It was a great joy on October 5th for EduNations to report all schools open and back to in-classroom instruction. Although it seems like much longer than six months ago, the government of Sierra Leone closed down all schools in the country on March 31st due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This closure ushered EduNations into a season of extraordinary flexibility in order to continue to serve its students, their families, and their communities.
When schools were shut down, EduNations’ schools were mid school year with a special focus on preparing students for the end-of-year exams, which are so important for their educational success in Sierra Leone. This year, EduNations was prepping one-hundred-fifty 6th grade students to take the National Primary School Examinations (which must be passed to enter Junior Secondary School) and one hundred-thirty-eight 9th grade students to take the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (which must be passed to enter Senior Secondary School).
In the USA, one could expect parents to assume some teaching role in the absence of school. In rural Sierra Leone however, almost all students are the first generation in their family to attend school, so there is simply no one able to help children study. What to do? EduNations quickly developed a home-schooling program, visiting each child in their home to teach while still maintaining all the social-distancing and personal sanitation practices. The home-schooling program kept students moving forward and was a great demonstration of EduNations’ commitment to its students’ success.
While the home-schooling program worked well in many ways, it was never the same as the normal school and classroom setting which worked best for both students and teachers. Recognizing the benefits and believing schools could manage the risks, the Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Schools asked all candidates to return to school to prepare for and write their exams.
Since then, with no reported COVID-19 cases in all the schools across the country, we were delighted at the announcement for all schools to reopen and for all staff and students to return to school on October 5, 2020.
Of course, EduNations staff and students are thankful for the ongoing support of donors and the Board of Directors which has allowed us to get all the necessary supplies – including thermometers, hand washing facilities, face masks – to commence the school year. EduNations was also able to provide school supplies to all students as they returned back to the classroom. As one of our teachers put it, “we are just so happy to be back in this environment with our students.