I have been a secondary teacher in Freetown, Sierra Leone, for six years. I love being a teacher - it has always been my passion, ever since I was a kid.
I joined the Rising Academy Network in January to help deliver its Ebola Crisis Home Outreach programme. I vividly remember when I heard back in September that my previous school was closing because of the Ebola outbreak. I thought that my occupation had been shattered and asked: "When will this scourge end? What will happen to us?" My husband and I are both teachers so it was a big blow for us. While the schools have been closed, we have been teaching students in small groups in local homes for a couple of hours each day.
My typical day starts at 6am, when I get up, say my prayers, then prepare food for myself and my family. I leave home at 8am to go to a house in Hill Station that is hosting my class. It's very conducive for learning: the atmosphere is cool, calm and quiet, with no distractions.
When I arrive, I write out my learning objectives, then prepare my temperature chart and make sure Ebola protocols are observed. As Ebola is a killer disease, we must be extremely cautious. When the pupils arrive, we ask them to wash their hands with chlorine water or soap. Next we take their temperatures to make sure none of them are running a fever that could be a symptom of Ebola. We escort them to their seats, ensuring that each one has their own space so bodily contact with other pupils is avoided. We haven't had any sick children yet, but if a student were unwell we would notify the parents and send them home immediately.
Once every child is checked and seated, I get them going on a "do now", a warm-up activity before we start the day's work. The group are junior secondary students and I'm teaching them maths, phonics, reading, writing and science. It's a challenge to teach all these subjects - I was trained in business studies and indigenous languages - but I enjoy it. The academy gives me lesson plans and I read these over in advance to check whether I can add extra material.
The system at the Rising Academy Network is very different from the teacher-centred system I used to work under. We use a child-centred approach, where I facilitate the work and give direction but the children work by themselves and are not just learning by rote.
One of my students is really struggling. When she first came to the class, she would pretend to write, but when you looked closely she wasn't even forming letters. I had to encourage her and counsel her to not be afraid to admit she needed help.
To construct a solid building, you need strong foundations. Some of our pupils come from institutions we call "let my people go" schools, which don't build those foundations. They will look at the height of the student and say, "This boy is getting too big for this class; let him go up to the next grade." Or a teacher will ask, "Class, do you understand?" and the class will say yes even if they don't.
We all are praying and hoping that this Ebola crisis will come to an end and that we'll go back to our normal lives. And we believe that with this new educational system we've embraced, we'll be able to change our land for the better.
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