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“The schools closed because of Ebola and I really missed it”

Emergency Inclusion
Sierra Leone

Fanta, 8, lives with her parents and her little brother in Kono district, Sierra Leone. Last year, she went to school for the very first time. But the Ebola virus closed schools across the country, including hers.

Eight-year-old Fanta, who has cerebral palsy, with her parents. Sierra Leone.

Eight-year-old Fanta, who has cerebral palsy, with her parents. Sierra Leone. | © Julia McGeown / Handicap International

Fanta, 8, lives with her parents and her little brother in Kono district, Sierra Leone. Last year, she met Margaret from Handicap International who found that Fanta did not go to school because she has cerebral palsy.

Fanta was immediately given a wheelchair and was able to start school, as a part of the Girl Education Challenge project in Sierra Leone.  One year on, we visited Fanta to see how she was doing and how she coped with the ordeal of the Ebola virus epidemic. For Fanta, the hardest thing was “having to stay away from school for so long.”

“I’m really happy I can go to school with my little brother,” explains Fanta. “I’ve got a uniform, textbooks and now I really feel like the other children. Unfortunately, because of Ebola, the schools were closed for a long time and it made me feel really sad not to be able to go there for so long.”

Handicap International’s team in the district of Kono is relieved to know that Fanta and her family are in good health and that they did not fall victim to the virus. The schools eventually reopened their doors and Fanta’s classmates and teachers were happy to see her again. “We’re really lucky to have Fanta in our school,” explains Mr. Emmanuel, one of her teachers. “Thanks to her, we’ve reorganized our buildings and always teach in a way that ensures all children are able to attend our classes.”

Since their first meeting, Margaret has paid regular visits to Fanta, both at home and at school, to check if she has integrated successfully.

“Every time I visit I can see that Fanta is getting on well with the other children, who play with her and help her move around in her wheelchair. Life at home has also changed. Fanta’s mother has noticed that she feels better, and she told me that she never misses an opportunity to use her notebook and pencils to practice her writing. School has helped her make progress and have fun, and it’s really important to her, but it’s also important to her family, who until now had to make arrangements to ensure she was never left alone.”

We are delighted to see that, despite the Ebola epidemic, Fanta is doing well. She’s cheerful and in good spirits. Our teams will continue to support her so that she can play a full role in her community and carry on going to school.

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