School & Community News

What Ebola has meant to Sierra Leone’s children
February 29, 2016

February 2016… Healthy NewsWorks recently presented a lecture by Lawrence University Professor Claudena Skran about the effect of Ebola epidemic on children in Sierra Leone.

An expert on refugees and migration who has been to Sierra Leone 17 times, Dr. Skran focused on children’s stories of loss and resilience during the talk at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

At least 8,600 Sierra Leone children lost one or both parents during the epidemic from April 2014 through November 2015, she said. Collectively, the nation’s 1.8 million school-age children lost some 1.4 billion hours of classroom time as schools closed to prevent the further spread of the disease.

But amid the sad stories, Dr. Skran found the children also had a remarkable ability to cope with hardship. At one school, children greeted her with an exuberant song she played in a video during the talk. Only later did she learn 1 in 16 of the school’s 400 students had lost one or both parents to the epidemic.

Most of the children had extended families who could take them in, though often in reduced circumstances, she said. Girls have been forced into adult roles and many have dropped out of school, while others have pushed hard to continue their educations.

“So while the Ebola epidemic has done a lot of damage, it has also doubled the determination of a lot of people,” she said.

Dr. Skran is Professor of Government and Edwin and Ruth West Professor of Economics and Society at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and founder of KidsGive, a scholarship program for children in Sierra Leone.

Healthy NewsWorks and KidsGive are also working on a “peer-to-peer” education project. In conjunction with Dr. Skran’s visit, a group of Lawrence University students volunteering with KidsGive worked with Healthy NewsWorks reporters at St. Martin de Porres Catholic School and St. Veronica School in Philadelphia to create two educational videos about Ebola and water hygiene. The two videos will be shown to students and their families in Sierra Leone.

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