Via The Guardian, an opinion piece by Julia Gillard, chair of the Global Partnership for Education: As Ebola closes schools in Africa, how do we help children learn? Excerpt:
As Ebola robs children of schooling, the seeds are also being sown for ongoing problems in public heath: the more educated people are, the more likely they are to keep themselves, their families and communities safe. In affected countries, fear and misunderstanding about Ebola are intense and widespread, complicating the efforts of health workers to contain the disease. In some cases, people suspected of being ill with the virus, including medical practitioners caring for the sick, face discrimination because of a lack of knowledge about the disease.
The scenarios playing out in these African nations are all too familiar to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and our many partners in the education sector. It is one of our priorities to help countries plagued by conflict or natural disaster to maintain continuous schooling for their children. When full continuity is impossible, our aim will be to facilitate children getting education in some other way than through school attendance.
In all these contexts, GPE’s role is to keep all the essential players – the NGOs, government ministries, humanitarian responders and education specialists from donor countries and multilateral institutions – working together.
In Liberia, where schools will remain closed at least until 1 October, our education partners are currently collaborating closely. They have drawn up an emergency response plan that equips teachers, schools and districts to help raise public awareness about the virus.
Plans are being put in place to help children to live with the trauma associated with the outbreak. Should schools remain closed for an indefinite period of time, education leaders are considering a national education radio program for home-based learning.
Tragically, the emergency will almost certainly slow, and possibly stop, the remarkable progress Liberia has made over the past decade when it comes to education.
In 2010, the Global Partnership approved a US$40m education grant to further this progress and strengthen the management capacity and accountability in the education sector and to improve education in rural areas. While that grant is not at risk, it is dispiriting to see Liberia's progress of recent years will stall.
In Sierra Leone, schools have not opened since 9 September, and authorities are suggesting they may remain closed for three months or more. As in Liberia, contingency measures are being put in place to compensate for the loss of learning opportunities.
As we have learned from many nations in crisis, it is essential that education planners remain vigilant and flexible. Vigilant, to ensure that children are not kept away for too long from their learning, and flexible so they can adapt quickly and effectively to the unexpected. The stakes for anything less are much too high –the time for considered action is now.