By Dr David Sengeh, Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education of Sierra Leone and Chair of the Advisory Board for the GEM Report.
I was only a few months into my new role as Sierra Leone’s Education Minister when COVID-19 hit. Unlike many countries that were caught off guard, we were prepared for the school closures that arise from such pandemics. At the peak of the of the COVID-19 crisis, up to 1.6 billion children did not have access to physical school. The tragic situation with the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2016 meant that this time we were ready to provide distance schooling to 2.6 million students through the interactive Radio Teaching Program.
During the Ebola outbreak, students were out of school for the larger part of nine months. These were the years before Zoom calls and online learning platforms for schools: besides, very few households have access to internet technology in Sierra Leone.Radio programming was chosen to deliver lessons, as it was cost-effective and could be adapted to local languages. Distance learning through radio is also engaging and has been shown to improve learning outcomes.
The Flexible Learning Strategies for Out of School Children programme is a UNESCO initiative with the aim of supporting inclusive and quality education for every child in the region. Our goal is to reach the remaining and most vulnerable 5% of children with no access to education in the region and support quality improvements in learning for every child.
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