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Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau schools reopen six months after virus shutdown

By AFP | October 6th 2020

Face masks and hand washing have been made compulsory in schools. [AFP]

Schools in Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau reopened after six months on Monday, as parents weighed whether it was safe for children to resume lessons.

Schools shuttered in both the both poor West African nations in March.

The school shutdown affected nearly three million children in Sierra Leone.

Face masks and hand washing have been made compulsory in schools across the country, where 2,269 coronavirus cases with 72 deaths have been officially registered.

"The normal school assembly has been suspended to reduce the gathering of school children and we encourage our pupils -- if they feel sick -- they should stay home or visit the nearest health centre," Florence Koymebeh, principal of the Freetown Secondary School for Girls told AFP.

Some of the schools visited by AFP in the Sierra Leone capital Freetown were partially empty.

"I came to the school to verify their coronavirus preparedness before I allow my kid to resume school tomorrow," Jeneba Massaquoi, a parent, said.

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"We are monitoring all schools for the adherence of the coronavirus regulations in schools," Education Minister David Moinina Sengeh said.

"We have provided buckets and soap to all schools across the country, school authorities are expected to provide water for the hand washing facilities," he added.

Aminata Kamara, a pupil who turned up for classes in Freetown, said: "I’m happy to be back in school after a long break.

"During the closure of schools we usually listen to a radio teaching programme by the ministry of education," she added.

Sierra Leone boasts huge mineral and diamond deposits, but it remains one of the world's poorest nations, still recovering from decades of war and disease. 

In nearby Guinea-Bissau, schools also reopened on Monday after closing in March, the education ministry said.

"The students turned up in large numbers this morning wearing masks. There are hand washing facilities throught the school and buckets of water have been placed in front of the classrooms," said Idrissa Cassama, principal of the Kwame Nkrumah high school in the capital Bissau.

But several schools in the interior of the country remained closed, residents told AFP.

There have been about 40 Covid-19 deaths and over 2,300 infections in this poor former Portuguese colony.

Covid 19 Time Series


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