As the sun rose into a clear blue sky over the quarantined village of Robuya, just outside Makeni, an unusual sight greeted the members of the community. 22 children who are under quarantine were escorted out of their houses in their beautiful blue and pink uniforms and trouped up to the village school so that they could take their vital NPSE exams. This was all made possible following the decision by the District Coordinator (Dr Emanuel Conteh) to make a plan and do as much as possible to facilitate the children taking their important examinations despite being in quarantine. This decision was fully supported by the Honourable Minister of Education as these children had already missed taking the examination for over a year due to the Ebola outbreak.
This is the first time that quarantined children have been able to attend public examinations and is one of the many challenges the affected populations have had to endure over the last year, particularly involving any activities that require outside support. Following careful consultation by the DERC with the Ministry of Education a plan was devised. The Deputy Director for Education personally oversaw the academic arrangements and the DERC Pillars led the arrangements with UNICEF, WHO and others in support.
The District Medical Officer (Dr Brima Asaio Kamara said “I knew that there would be technical challenges around moving lots of children from quarantine to school however I was confident in the ability of the DERC IPC Pillar with support from Social Mobilisation, UNICEF and WHO that this could all be done safely. The main goal was to ensure that the children were supported and could continue with their education.”
The plan involved getting the Examination Board to bring the NPSE exam papers to the village school where all the children would be supervised in a safe environment while continuing to abide by quarantine restrictions thus enabling them to sit their important examinations. UNICEF provide stationary and WASH support; RSLAF cleaned the school, arranged the desks and fitted lighting to the classrooms; Psychosocial and Social Mobilisation officers visited every family in the village and explained what would happen, giving valuable encouragement and support; the IPC pillar, with WHO technical advice, made the arrangements to ensure the environment was safe and all the children were well prior to the examination; and DFID provided breakfast and lunch for the children as they could not have access to other food sources.
The parents in the village, and beyond, were clearly delighted that this had all been made possible. Not only were the children in Robuya able to take their exams but the main road through the village was opened to allow children from villages further away to be escorted through the quarantine to be able to take their examinations in Makeni town. Throughout the day in the village parents waited patiently to hear how their sons and daughters had performed and were delighted to see them return home safe and happy. There was a huge air of excitement and gratitude that the DERC had made this possible and demonstrated that the quarantine experience could be made as unrestrictive as possible.
Following the successful day the District Coordinator commented “I was determined that these children would not miss the opportunity to take these important examinations. Just because this hasn’t been done before and creates challenges is not a reason not to try. All the efforts of my DERC, the Ministry of Education and a plethora of partners has made this possible and it is a fantastic result. I am extremely proud of everyone and am delighted for the children”