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Sierra Leone schools reopen six months after virus shutdown

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School Children at the Freetown Secondary School for girls stand in line on their first day back at school in Freetown on October 5, 2020. – Schools in Sierra Leone have been closed for the last six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Saidu BAH / AFP)


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

School shuttered in the poor West African nation in March after the first coronavirus case was detected, affecting nearly three million children.

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

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“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 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.

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

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“We have provided buckets and soap to all schools across the country, school authorities are expected to provide water for the handwashing 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.

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