Sierra Leone News: Learning centre for Ebola orphans

 Barely two years after the official declaration of the end of the deadly hemorrhagic Ebola virus disease, hundreds of children who survived are currently faced with numerous challenges.
When Ebola struck the country, thousands of people lost their lives with many more received treatment at the various treatment centres and they were described as ‘survivors’.
The majority of these survivors are children who are attending school. The government promised to look after them.
But, the majority of these school-going survivors are presently staying relatives who hardly provide daily bread least to say continue to send these kids to school or recreational centres to wipe tears and give them a new life after losing their parents/guardians through the Ebola disease.
The Social Enterprise Development SEND) Sierra Leone is operates a centre in Luawa chiefdom known as ‘Changing Life’, where kids spend at least three hours studying and playing with others.
According to lead facilitator at the Changing Life Children Centre and field officer of SEND Sierra Leone, Bartholomew Membui, the project has many facilities for Ebola orphans, vulnerable and disabled children in the district.
From 15:30 p.m. to 17:30 p.m. the children are taught science, English and other core subjects. Classes run from Primary to Senior Secondary level. He said, “We were able to overcome those challenges through psycho-social support whereby children received special counseling from our members” he says… We engaged the children in constant talking and counseling about their future and life after Ebola.”
“We play various games, do drama and cultural activities. The children write stories, poems as a way to transform their lives,” he said. There is also the psycho social and life skill support that help teach the kids on how to go through their lives and support each others, particularly those that were traumatised.
Officials from the Ministry of Education, Social Welfare, Health and other areas do come and assisting in teaching and learning the children new skills as partners in the program, according to him.
“The aim of the project is to strengthen resilient people who have lost their hopes as a result of their experience during the Ebola crisis,” he maintained. “We intend to incorporate more children in future but due to limited funding we are only targeting 40 pupils who are benefiting from the scholarship.”
According to one of the beneficiaries who is currently in Senior Secondary School 2 (SSS2) in the Science stream at the National Secondary School in Kailahun, Alieu Senesie, age 15, he lost his mother through the Ebola disease and is yet to set eyes on his father.
He explained he is presently living with his grandmother who depends on farming for their survival, but could not meet with his school demands due to limited funds raise from the farm proceeds.
Senesie stated that the Center is helping him greatly in the area of his education, explaining that his grandmother cannot afford to buy him the essential textbooks and other related learning materials to aid his studies but can now access in the Centre easily.
Fatmata Karamoh another orphan beneficiary of the project who is 10-years old, class 5 pupil at Methodist Primary School in Kailahun, lost both parents through the deadly Ebola disease virus in the country in 2014.
Fatmata is also living with her grandmother who relies on selling potato leaves at the market for their daily survival but finds it very difficult to send her to school due to economic challenges at home.
She disclosed that coming to the Changing Life Center, her dream of completing her education is gradually coming to pass now that she can access her basic schooling needs and also receive her school fees without any delay.
Fatmata emphasized on the need for food in their Center where they end the day with their studies, explaining some of them return home from school very hungry and then came to the Centre for studies without any food which to some extent weaken their determination to push hard.
By Alhaji M. Kamara
Awoko Tuesday August 22, 2017

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