Since Ebola Closed the Schools, Home-Teaching Takes Center Stage In Liberia

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The deadly Ebola virus continues to tear its way through the heart of a country. More than 2,000 persons have died from the virus since it was crossed over from neighboring Guinea earlier this year. The level at which the disease has been killing Liberians and its mode of transmission led the government to put a lid on the country’s education sector, leaving children trapped in their homes and not making it to school last September.

It is now October and the academic year 2014/2015 has not yet started, and many children whose parents do not have the resources to fly them out of the country for academic purposes are missing out on education. 

Morris S. Kamara, a high school graduate has now become a home teacher for children in the beginning class, at least up to the 5th grade class.

He volunteers to serve as a tutor in his home at the corner of McDonald and Carey streets in Monrovia. Every day Kamara gathers all the children living in his community and other nearby communities, and teaches them just as it is done in a normal classroom. This exercise is done by Kamara with the parents’ permission.  The parents are  all busy persons.

Daily Observer’s Education Columnist, C.Y. Kwanue, on Friday entered ‘Teacher’ Kamara’s classroom during one of his lessons for the week. He says he feels a sense of responsibility to teach other children living in his community and the nearby communities.

“I am the one teaching these people, because school is closed and we are sitting at home.  So I decided to bring them together to teach them.”

“Most of them are still in the beginning classes, while others are in elementary, so this is for them to be brushed up before entering classes when school reopens.”

Kamara said many children feel bored now that they are not in school and cannot wait for the scourge of the deadly Ebola virus to end. The 22-year-old says though he is out of high school, he misses school and his friends.  Some  of them graduated with him and have enrolled at the various universities.

 As such, he feels teaching is the only way he can become a part of that essential cycle of life.

“We pray that Ebola leaves our country. I feel bad that Ebola came and stopped our education,” Kamara said in an exclusive interview.

“We do this every day. I miss school; I wish to be in school everyday. School was scheduled to open in September, but because of Ebola, we have not gone back to school. They are my brothers and sisters; we share ideas and learn from each other.”

Dixon Barchue, 10, is in the 5th grade. He and other children write lessons from the board manned by Kamara. Dixon told our reporter how he feels learning at home in the midst of a deadly outbreak, and not being able to sit with friends and teachers in school.

“I like what I’m doing. I’m writing spelling notes. I’m not in school because of Ebola. I feel very bad. School is very good, because at school, we play and learn for a better tomorrow,” he said as his colleagues burst into laughter.

Though he occasionally visits his friends in the neighborhood, Barchue said they are under parental restriction not to play with others because of Ebola.

Since school closed and they put the Ebola call center near our community, my mother said I should not be playing with other children. We play among ourselves in our yard and learn our lesson,” he said.

The children, who are more than ten in a makeshift open classroom, usually recite words written on the blackboard.

They sometimes read and write from textbooks available to them while the little ones read their ABC in the same small space.

Rachel Fallah, 7 and Eddie Nyokor, 9, are in grades 1 and 3, respectively from two different schools in Monrovia. For Rachel, she believes that gathering together and teaching each other is the best way to keep the mind busy.

“I really want the government to fight Ebola, because if we fight Ebola and kick it out of this country, we can talk about school again.”

Rachel continued: “Our brothers and sisters in the upper classes are helping us to learn things that we don’t know. Those who are in higher classes teach us the things they learned in school, and we put the ideas together and teach ourselves at home.”

Ebola has not affected Rachel’s family, she said.  They do everything they can to avoid other people to stay safe.

“We keep ourselves keep away from community members. We don’t go out to associate with other people so that we don’t contract the virus. We stay at home and learn our lessons; this is why our brother Kamara has taken the lead,” she said.

She said the deadly virus has had negative impact on their relationship with friends and teachers, and the only way she hears from her friends these days is to either beg her mom or dad to call them on the phone.

“I miss school so badly. Some activities we used to have in school are spelling-beating game and sports, including kickball,” she said.

While other children around the world have returned to school for the school year, children in Liberia continue to stay at home due to the deadly Ebola virus. The current outbreak is the deadliest since Ebola was discovered in 1976.

As a result, the government of Liberia closed down all schools across the country to stop its spread.

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