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Sierra Leone Delays Schools Reopening Two Weeks

FILE - Students arrive for class at the Every Nation Academy private school in the city of Makeni in Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone authorities have again delayed the reopening of schools shut down for months to combat the spread of Ebola.

The schools were scheduled reopen on March 30. That date has now been pushed back to April 14.

Government spokesman Abdulai Bayraytay said officials want to make sure all safety measures are put in place before the reopening.

“When the president made the pronouncement that schools were going to be reopening on the 30th of this month, it was based on expert advice, because the purpose of the reopening is not just for educational purposes, but also to ensure that our students go to a safe environment whereby they will not have a psychological fear that they might be contracting the Ebola virus,” he said.

It had been feared the authorities might not be able to decontaminate all the schools that were used throughout the country as Ebola holding and treatment centers.

Bayraytay said the decision to delay the reopening of schools was made after consultations with school officials as well as the technical committee in the Ministry Education, Science and Technology and the National Ebola Response Team.

“Once they advised us that they are not ready, that is why [the] government said, ‘Well, for us, we don’t just want to hastily open schools. We want to make sure we open schools when everybody is on the [same] page with the learning environment,’ which is very crucial because we want make sure we have isolation units. Our government has already imported 57,000 infrared thermometers so that we can give them to all the schools in this country, and also to train teachers, and we have nurses on standby,” Bayraytay said.

The delay in schools reopening came as Koroma ordered a three-day Ebola lockdown of the entire country beginning Friday, March 27, in a bid to stem the spread of the deadly virus.

“It’s going to be nationwide, but we have areas we call the ‘hot spots,’ and this includes the western areas that includes Freetown. We are also concentrating more in Port Loko, Bombali and Kambia Districts in the north,” Bayraytay said.

According to the World Health Organization, Ebola has killed more than 10,300 people in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Sierra Leone’s Ebola death toll is over 3,700.

Butty interview with Abdulai Bayraytay
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