Monday, September 20, 2021

The power of radio in Sierra Leone

I was only a few months into my new role as Sierra Leone’s education minister when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. At the peak of the crisis, up to 1.6 billion children across the world found themselves unable to attend school in person. Many countries were caught off guard and struggled to find ways for children to continue their education at home. In Sierra Leone, however, we were prepared for the school closures that arise from such pandemics. The interactive Radio Teaching Programme that we established during the 2014-16 Ebola crisis meant that we were ready to provide distance schooling to millions of students.

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 had access to internet technology in Sierra Leone. It was decided that radio programming would be the most efficient method to deliver lessons as it was cost-effective, engaging, and could easily be adapted to local languages.

Using funding from the Global Partnership for Education, 80,000 portable radio sets were distributed to learners in 2014. The best teachers were selected to present compelling lessons to 1.8 million learners. It worked well. While the radio teaching programme ended when the Ebola crisis was over, the ministry kept the Education Radio station alive.


© Al Jazeera

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