The students in KDEC Primary School in Kocher in Sierra Leone - Photo: Oxfam IBIS

2015 was a tough time for Sierra Leone, which was not declared free of Ebola until halfway into the year. Nevertheless, not everything was gloom. With help from Oxfam IBIS, schoolchildren’s education was improved in several places

Closed schools are not commonly associated with better learning. But for the children at KDEC Primary School in Kocheor, this was indeed what happened.

The school has 225 pupils and five teachers, and is located in a remote rural area. The pupils had neither schoolbooks nor other basic teaching aids. They performed poorly in national exams, which must be passed to carry on in secondary school.

Thus, in 2014, only six pupils sat for the exam, and every single one of them failed.

Accordingly, a low level of expectations was the order of the day when the massive Ebola outbreak hit, and the school was closed to prevent infection, just like other Sierra Leonean schools. This was what prompted Oxfam IBIS to support remote learning by radio. And together with our partners, we distributed packages of schoolbooks, notebooks and pencils to pupils.

Moreover, teachers gathered pupils in small groups and followed up the radio lessons.

This enabled these children to continue school during the Ebola outbreak, while parents could keep an eye on whether they did their homework.

The radio school was a success. In fact, so much so that it continued as a supplement to classroom teaching after the schools reopened. In 2015, the school in Kocheor was able to sign up no less than 16 pupils for the national exam. And this time all of them passed. So not only was the children’s education successfully kept going while schools were closed – it was actually improved.

In total, 4,128 children benefited from Oxfam IBIS-supported remote teaching by radio during the Ebola outbreak, and more than half of them were girls. At the same time, 1,034 teachers received in-service training in teaching methodology.