I am leaving Sierra Leone to return home to Brisbane next week ..a long 4 day trip . When I arrive I will self Quarantine myself (with the help of www.pk4a). I believe it is MY DUTY OF CARE as a professional and as a Christian to avoid putting anyone at risk of contacting Ebola simply because I chose to heed the call to come to Sierra Leone.
I am an educator not a health care worker but a nurse in USA caught riding her bike when she was supposed to be in Quarantine….really what was she thinking?. Why has a moral obligation become a legal matter?
I have spent 5 months in S.L taking care where I go, how I interact with people and what I wear….why all the fuss about a 21 day quarantine? I will get running hot water, TV, WiFi and a time to rest and reflect. Sure I have to wait to greet my loved ones and give my little grandson a hug …but come on volunteers, if you are truly humanitarian then think about the people in your home country who could be at risk ( no matter how low the risk) it is the common sense RIGHT thing to do.
Schooling Ebola and Education
There is so much I could write about the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone. It is the topic of discussion and debate wherever one turns here. I am sure you are bombarded by daily updates (and hourly ones I am told by my family back in Australia). BUT just for a moment, I want to step outside the chaos, the fear and the tragedy of this colossal catastrophe.
Instead, I want to step inside the faith, hope and future of this beautiful country and its people….. during and after Ebola.
I want to talk about education and the progress the Mission is making despite the Ebola challenges. Schools and colleges may be closed (at least until early 2015) but this has not stopped us from preparing our teachers at Saint Jacob’s Dream Pre-Primary school for re-opening by improving their teaching and learning skills. Weekly professional development workshops are held at Waterloo to support pedagogy and practice. Topics such as assessment, evaluation, lesson planning and teaching methodology have proven to be a welcome learning opportunity for the teachers (and a respite from the Ebola horror stories). I personally, find myself looking forward to seeing their smiling and enthusiastic faces as we drive into the compound every Tuesday.
Teachers are learning about formative and summative assessment using higher order thinking skills. They are also learning how to integrate music into language arts and math lessons. Thanks to the kind contributions and efforts of PK4A donors, we were able to provide teachers with some new resource and teaching aids, including craft materials and stationary as well as class specific text books and reading books for children. I arrived this week with storage boxes full of teaching aids, games, and posters and they were received with gratitude and excitement. These teaching tools will be used in the next few weeks, for planning units of study. By the time school resumes, teachers will be well prepared, motivated, armed with new skills and knowledge and ready, willing and able to teach innovative lessons.
The Orthodox Youth Fellowship (OYF) which is made up of junior and secondary high school students have also had their schooling on hold. Some were due to sit their final exams but the Ebola crisis has meant all public exams have been cancelled. Students rarely have text books to study at home and as a result, they have always relied heavily on teacher instruction. No school means no education for many high school students and a high drop- out rate post Ebola. This is a dangerous time, as adults are using children (some as young as 7 years) for child labour, idol youth can turn to criminal activities, and of course teenage pregnancy is rampant. At best, students fear they will forget what they were taught last school year. In addition, they fear that their families /guardians may not be able to afford their school fees post Ebola. Priorities such as food, safety and shelter have always come before a secondary education but the Ebola outbreak has impacted on food prices, petty trading, business, health and job prospects.
In a sermon recently, Fr Themi reminded us how blessed we are that not one orthodox member of the mission has been struck by Ebola. This is a direct result of prayers and fasting (and we thank you all for your prayers). I cling to that hope that our OYF students will continue to remain safe and I trust in God’s promise that all things work for the good for those who love the Lord.
And the blessings continue…..This month, we have (again via donation) been able to purchase high school text books and established a text book lending library. I am writing a study guide to help our high school students use the text books to study at home (I would be grateful if you have any tried and tested tips that I can include in this study guide). In addition, thanks to the help of a local parishioner, the OYF students are also learning beading and crochet skills and making some wonderful jewellery (which we hope to sell in USA, Europe and Australia in the coming months) to help with scholarships, post Ebola.
We are all heeding Fr Themis’s advice and taking every precautionary measure possible to protect ourselves from Ebola. In the mean time I believe that education cannot wait post Ebola, our focus on education is important now!
Theorists, educators, psychologists and even economists all agree that education is a must for national development. Investing in education now, saves government money (and resources) later. In a country where people have suffered so much and poverty is rampant, they are going to need education more than ever. As students struggle to catch up on so many missing months of schooling, this mission and your donations give hope to students, parents and teachers. Hope for a brighter and better future post Ebola.
Blessings and thanks to you all for your support.