Radio Classroom: Bring learning back to the Ebola zone

November 25, 2014
Written by Toni Collette, Actress and Global Ambassador for Concern Worldwide
Photo by Kieran McConville

Global Ambassador and award-winning actress Toni Collette teams up with Concern Worldwide to keep children learning across the Ebola zone.

As a mother of two, I know all parents want the best for their children, which includes an education. For millions of children in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the Ebola outbreak has put their education and their futures on hold.

Fifteen-year-old Mada Karimu has not been to his school since it closed on July 18th. But he’s still learning. All he needs is a notebook and a small radio, on which he listens to classes each day.

Education by radio during Ebola outbreak

Concern, together with governments in Sierra Leone and Liberia, is giving solar-powered radios to families, along with books, stationery, and other learning supplies.

More than 5,000 people have died in the worst Ebola outbreak the world has ever seen and more cases are confirmed each day. Tragically, Ebola’s devastation does not end there. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, the countries hardest hit, whatever progress was made after years of brutal civil war has largely disintegrated.

Education—the backbone of these countries’ futures—is not immune to Ebola’s insidious reach. Schools across Liberia and Sierra Leone were forced to close their doors indefinitely, leaving Mada and three million other children unsure of when they will be able to go back, if ever.

Together we can change that.

This year I became the Global Ambassador of Concern Worldwide, an organization that for nearly five decades has been helping communities in 25 of the poorest and most volatile countries in the world to break the cycle of extreme poverty. Sierra Leone and Liberia are no exception. Concern has worked in those countries since the 1990s when they were both embroiled in civil wars. Today, Concern is doing whatever it takes to stop the spread of the disease, from managing the safe burial of bodies to educating people on how Ebola is contracted.

Concern is also helping children like Mada continue their education despite the outbreak. With schools shuttered, Concern is working with the governments in both countries to expand, improve, and deliver lessons by radio by bringing the classroom straight to children’s homes. We are also training teachers and community members who will work with small groups of children, focusing on basic reading and maths skills, and are getting books, stationery, and other learning materials out to families.

For these children, many of whom have lost family and friends to Ebola, the impact of having books to read and classes to tune into every day is even deeper than their education. It creates a sense of normalcy and stability when everything else seems uncertain.

Education by radio adopted in Sierra Leone

Hawa “Baby” Conteh, with her sons Mada Karimu (15) and Ishmel Jawera (7), at their home in Magburaka, Tonkolili district. Education by radio has been adopted in Sierra Leone, following the decision to close all schools because of the Ebola outbreak.

Three million children out of school in Liberia and Sierra Leone may seem like too huge a problem to tackle but think of what you could do for one child.

From November 25th through December 2nd, I am proudly participating in a holiday giving challenge to reach as many kids as we can with tools to keep them learning. I ask you to please visit my CrowdRise page, where you can learn more, spread the word and donate. Just $20 can buy a solar-powered radio for children to listen to classes on, while $1.80 can buy an elementary school student a plastic folder, two notebooks, two pens, and a set of crayons.

To share my sincerest gratitude for joining our campaign, anyone who gives $20 or more—the cost of one radio—by December 2nd will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win a signed photograph with a personalized message of thanks from myself and my friend, Drew Barrymore, from our upcoming film Miss You Already. It is a small token of thanks for helping us make a difference, one child at a time.

Toni Collette, Concern's global ambassador

Toni Collette, actress and Concern Worldwide’s global ambassador, launches holiday campaign to give children living in the Ebola zone a chance to keep learning.

Mada’s favorite subject is science which he hopes to study at university someday. His dream is to one day be president of Sierra Leone. Together, we can make sure Ebola does not rob him and others of the future they envisioned before the outbreak.

You can visit Toni Collette’s personal fundraising page on CrowdRise by clicking HERE.