Guinea: Reopening schools safely - partnering with families and communities
After many months of prolonged closure due to fear of Ebola transmission, schools have reopened in Guinea last month. WHO and partners have played a crucial role in preparing schools to open their doors to students.
WHO provides Ebola advice and tools in Guinea
In Guinea, WHO worked with partners to assist the government to put measures in place to make it possible for schools to safely reopen.
"We have been working with partners to support the governments, making sure children and their teachers are safe and healthy at school. Our priority is to keep Ebola away from the environment where children spend a large part of their day", says Dr Jean-Marie Dangou, WHO Representative in Guinea. "Now that all measures are in place we need to make them work without exception".
WHO, UNICEF, CDC and other partners have provided training for teachers and school managers on Ebola, its symptoms and the signs to look for, as well as what to do if someone is suspected of having Ebola at school.
Equipment for infection control and hygiene, particularly soap for hand washing, equipment for disinfection for classrooms, and thermometers for measuring children’s temperatures at the school entrance have also been provided.
Advice about preventive actions such as hand washing, when and how it should be done, and advice to parents not to send children with fever, diarrhoea or any illness to school has also been provided.
Community trust is critical to achieving zero Ebola cases
Having interventions in place is not enough, people need to regain trust that such interventions work. When Guinea first reopened schools in mid-January, many children stayed away as parents were concerned about what could happen if there is a child with Ebola.
Children and parents were gathering in front of the school entrance without going further. They were not certain whether schools were really reopening and waited to watch what would happen.
Gaining community trust is critical to achieving zero Ebola cases. It is the community who can best detect potential cases of Ebola virus disease early and who can prevent widespread infection by ensuring that anyone who may have died of Ebola virus disease has a safe burial.
Children are key messengers for health
Schools are a valuable means of engaging communities. Children can be effective messengers for public health information. Teachers can be engaged to provide accurate messages to children who will take them home and repeat them to their parents and community, helping to change attitudes and behaviours.