In Sub-Saharan African countries such as Sierra Leone, the coronavirus pandemic has closed schools for months and because the vast majority have been unable to make the transition to online education, school closures have widening the pre-existing gap between how much rich children and poor children learn.
In Sierra Leone, it is estimated that only less than 5% of students have access to a computer at home, and more than half live in households that don’t even have electricity. In the world’s poorest countries, as many as 80 percent of children cannot read by age 10, and as school closures drag on, this crisis risks becoming a catastrophe.
But in Sierra Leone, we are seeing hope.
Schools in Sierra Leone closed for eight months in 2014-2015 to stop the spread of Ebola, and today the country is using the lessons learned during that crisis to provide inclusive remote learning as only 13 percent of the country’s households are connected to the internet.
And as the COVID-19 pandemic is stabilizing in the country, our longtime partner there, Rev. Francis Mambu, founder and executive director of Faith Healing Development Organization (FHDO) which operates several primary and secondary schools, informed us recently nursery schools have already reopened with, primary and secondary schools for follow next month.
According to CNBC Africa, as of September 8, there have been just over 2,000 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the country and a total of 71 deaths in a country with a population of eight million residents, and government and school officials have determined that it is safe for students to return to classrooms, with precautions.
Thanks to the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa®, over the years we have been able to assist Rev. Mambu and FHDO construct schools and add classrooms, supplement teachers’ salaries so they can continue support themselves, and most importantly, provide scholarships and assist with the school fees for hundreds of students who attend FHDO’s five primary schools and four secondary schools which serve a combined student body population of 533 boys and 515 girls, 1,048 students in all.
Among those who are able to attend FHDO’s Logos Academy, thanks to the supporters of Bread and Water for Africa® is Ernest, whose mother is a petty trader selling rice and spices at a local market, and father is a police officer working as a security guard.
Rev. Mambu tells us that Ernest has a passion to become a medical doctor and the drive and determination to make his dream a reality. Even though both his parents work, their meager incomes are barely enough to keep the family fed and a roof over their heads, and it is only through the Bread and Water for Africa® school fee assistance program that this bright, promising student can continue his education.