When the Ebola virus struck West Africa in 2014, three countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – had to shut down their school system to prevent the spread of the disease.
With support from its partners, including quickly re-allocated funds from a GPE grant, the Government of Sierra Leone developed radio instruction to ensure that the millions of children who were now at home could continue to learn.
3 months from school closures to lessons on the radio
The response was quick: Schools had closed in July 2014 – at the end of the school year – and the Emergency Radio Education Program (EREP) started airing in October 2014.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology broadcast an information campaign about the radio instruction to get the word out about the different types of programs and their schedule. To prepare the content, the ministry identified about 30 teachers (the “crème de la crème” of the teaching force, as one of them said) and worked closely with them to prepare the lessons.
Once the lesson scripts were ready, the teachers recorded them in a studio. The lessons were then aired later from these recordings, but once a lesson had been broadcast, a “live” phone line was opened the end of each segment to allow children to call in with their questions.
Lessons were broadcast on 41 radio stations and the country’s only television station. The programs aired for three hours every day, five days a week, in 30-minute increments between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm. This allowed some children to still help out with chores at home in the morning.