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Schools in Liberia to reopen following return of more than 1 million students in Guinea

2015-02-13

DAKAR, Senegal, 13 February 2015 – As children in Liberia prepare to return to their classrooms on Monday 16 February,  following seven months of Ebola-related school closures, UNICEF and its partners are working to put in place safety measures to minimize the risk of transmission of the virus. 

The safety measures have been successfully used in Guinea, where more than 1.3 million children have returned to school since January.  The measures include children having their temperatures taken when they arrive at their schools and washing their hands before they enter the classroom.

“We don’t expect all schools to reopen immediately,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “Typically it can take up to a month before the majority of students are back in the classroom. Throughout that period education authorities will be working to ensure that conditions are as safe as possible.”

Following Guinea’s experience last month, UNICEF has worked closely with the Liberian government and local communities to develop the safety protocols. Teachers have been trained to implement and monitor the safety measures, soap and other hygiene materials have been distributed and mass mobilization campaigns on Ebola prevention have been conducted nationwide.

In Guinea, where nearly all of the country’s more than 12,000 schools are now open, school attendance is at 85 per cent of pre-Ebola attendance, according to data collected by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF.

“Liberia has learned important lessons from the successful experience in Guinea, and Sierra Leone will build on the Liberia experience,” said Fontaine. “As more schools reopen we will continue to improve the measures in place to keep children safe.”   

Due to the Ebola outbreak, schools in the three most affected countries did not reopen after the end of the July-August holidays, depriving five million children of months of education. Guinea reopened its schools on January 19, and Sierra Leone plans to do so at the end of March.

Notes to the editors

How UNICEF and partners are helping:

Liberia

  • Ongoing distribution of more than 7,200 hygiene kits for over 4,000 schools.
  • Ongoing training of 15,000 teachers and school administrators in monitoring of safety protocols.
  • Nearly 6,000 teachers trained in ongoing door-to-door Ebola prevention messaging (Sep.-Dec. 2014)

Guinea

  • More than 47,500 hygiene kits containing buckets and soap distributed, benefitting almost 2.8 million children.
  • Partners supplied 20,500 infrared thermometers
  • More than 80,500 teachers trained in monitoring of safety protocols, 19 per cent of them with UNICEF funding.
  • Ongoing training of more than 300 people who in turn will train 30,000 primary school teachers in psychosocial support.

Sierra Leone

  • More than 16,200 hygiene kits being distributed to schools
  • Ongoing training of 7,000 teachers on protocol and psychosocial support, EVD prevention and social mobilization
  • Ongoing training of 36,000 teachers on implementation of the protocol for operating safe schools

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For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.