Most schools in Liberia have reopened six months after they were closed in an effort to stop the spread of Ebola in the country.
While many students are pleased to be able to return to school, others are concerned that the disease has not been completely flushed out of the country yet.
Students returning to school were met by staff members armed with thermometers to take their temperatures and buckets of chlorinated water for students to wash their hands before entering the building. Students suspected by staff members of being ill were not allowed to attend classes and were sent instead to an isolation center set up at every school.
Schools in many rural areas of Liberia are still unprepared to reopen as they lack basic equipment including chairs and soap, although Deputy Education Minister Remses Kumbuyah said he was confident they would be ready to open within the next two weeks.
He went on to say that many preventative measures have been taking to ensure that the disease does not spread throughout the school system.
“We are asking all the school administrators to ensure that a classroom should not have more than 45 or 50 students. In the past they used to have 100 or more,” Mr Kumbuyah said.
UNICEF, the United Nation’s children’s agency, has given over 7,200 hygiene kits to 5,800 public and private schools across Liberia. The kits include thermometers, detergents, face buckets for hand washing, and other preventative measures. The kits have been distributed to most of the schools in the country, writes Zoom Dosso for Yahoo! News.
In addition, the ministry of education has trained 15,000 teachers and school administrators to monitor the safety protocols that the ministry has initiated.
Around 6,000 teachers were also trained on how to spread door-to-door Ebola prevention messages.
Paul Toe, the dean of students at the Catholic-run Saint Michael High School in Monrovia, believes the school closures have had a negative effect on students, citing numerous examples of students who are now pregnant because they have not been at school and their parents “cannot control them” at home.
Liberia was one of three West African states to feel the worst of the Ebola outbreak first identified in March of 2013.
The virus has killed more than 9,000 people so far, although the number of cases has declined in recent weeks with only three new cases being reported in the country as recent as February 8.
A meeting last Sunday resulted in the leaders of the three states, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Guinea’s Alpha Conde and Sierra Leone’s Ernest Bai Koroma, making the goal of “zero Ebola infections within 60 days”.
Schools in Guinea were reopened last month and those in Sierra Leone plan to do the same by the end of March.
The schools had been ordered to close by a presidential mandate in July 2014 — during the height of the Ebola outbreak — in an effort to stop the spread of the disease.