Education in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia has been severely affected by the Ebola outbreak, with school closures having affected 5 million children at the height of the crisis. The World Bank Group (WBG) is helping these countries to reopen schools or prepare for reopening. This support comes amid fears that hard-won education gains achieved in a fragile environment will be tragically eroded.
The WBG’s support to education during the crisis is US$11.85 million across the three countries. Largely grant funding, this includes funds from IDA (the WBG’s fund for the poorest countries) and trust fund resources. Efforts are being coordinated closely with the three governments and development partners on the ground. Approximately 18,365 schools will benefit from WBG support.
The reopening process is now under way, with Guinea being the first country to reopen schools in January 2015, Liberia having begun to reopen in February 2015, and Sierra Leone to follow shortly. The WBG is supporting a wide range of activities during the process, from ensuring cleaning and sanitizing of schools (especially those used as holding centers), to building or repairing handwashing stations and water points in schools, to training teachers to use new thermometers.
The immediate focus is on getting children back into schools that can offer a safe environment for learning and to prevent the spread of Ebola through the school system. Once normal school functioning is restored, the WBG will also help address learning challenges. In Liberia, for example, about 44,000 teachers will benefit from refresher training on the national curriculum, and 617,000 students will benefit from new textbooks. In Guinea, the impact of Ebola on learning outcomes will be assessed through surveys. Ongoing projects will continue to provide support post-recovery.
New grant funds, restructured project funds, and technical assistance total US$ 2.95 million for Sierra Leone. The focus has been on handwashing stations (per government specifications), school disinfection and cleaning, and a grassroots social mobilization campaign. About 9,000 schools will benefit. The WBG is also discussing support to training institutions to address the medical deficit.
New grant funds and realigned pooled funds total US$4.7 million in Guinea. The pooled contribution will support activities such as rehabilitating existing latrines and water points in 850 schools, building new water and sanitation infrastructure, communicating about and monitoring health and hygiene in all 6,365 schools, and redesigning training programs to include modules on Ebola and related issues to benefit 12,000 teachers. Future surveys will assess the Ebola impact on learning outcomes.
An IDA emergency grant and other grant funds total US $4.2 million in Liberia. The IDA grant of US$3.2 million is being used to procure and distribute 300,000 badly needed textbooks for about 27,000 students in grades 10-12 nationwide and build water points for 73 schools identified as being in direst need of a well or pump. The remaining funds will be used to meet a wide range of needs, including distributing textbooks and early grade readers for 590,000 students in grades 1 to 9, refresher training on curriculum for 44,000 teachers, a radio-based public information campaign, and distributing deworming medicines to 740,000 children and youth (including those out of school). About 3,000 schools will benefit across the country from these various activities.