A teacher’s turf: Community outreach in the fight against Ebola | At a glance: Liberia | UNICEF

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At a glance: Liberia

A teacher’s turf: Community outreach in the fight against Ebola

By Helene Sandbu Ryeng

UNICEF trains thousands of teachers to reach out to their communities and raise awareness on Ebola prevention in Liberia.

PAYNESVILLE, Liberia, 5 December 2014 – Alphonso Kanboh and four other men walk through a maze of narrow paths that wind through a community in Paynesville, just outside Monrovia, the Liberian capital. They approach a small house painted a bright canary yellow, with an awning covered in fabric that provides some shade from the sun.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Liberia/2014/Ryeng
Alphonso Kanboh, a teacher in Paynesville, Liberia, has an important message for his community: Ebola is still very much real here in our town, but you can take measures to prevent getting infected.

A woman hunched over a pot balanced on three stones above a blazing fire stands up, and the children running around the small yard gather around her as Mr. Kanboh and his team approach.

“Good morning,” he says. “We are here because we have an important message.”

He explains, “As you may know, Ebola is still very much real here in our town. So you have to keep washing your hands before you eat. Don’t touch sick people. Call the number on the poster if anyone in your family becomes sick.”

Holding a flip chart, he shows them the signs and symptoms of the disease.

Mr. Kanboh has done this many times. In the last month, he and his group have reached out to 300 households, or some 1500 people in this community.

Trust

Mr. Kanboh and the team are among 5,600 teachers trained by Liberia’s Ministry of Education and UNICEF to raise awareness on how communities can protect themselves and prevent the transmission of Ebola virus. They are part of a total of 11,000 teachers and principals from across Liberia being trained and deployed in all affected counties to help raise awareness on prevention measures, and break transmission of the virus.

“I’ve been a teacher for 22 years, and people around here trust me, so when I and my colleagues approach them telling them how to prevent being infected by Ebola, they are more likely to listen,” he says. 

He feels that teachers, as trusted community members, have a special responsibility in keeping their communities safe. That is why he volunteered to undergo the training and go from door to door to help raise awareness where Ebola has hit hardest, at community level.

This is Mr. Kanboh’s home turf. He is a teacher at the community school in Paynesville, where 3,000 students were enrolled prior to the Ebola outbreak. Although schools did not reopen as scheduled in September, he is at the school almost every day to check that everything is all right.

Changing behaviour

“I really miss my students – my whole life is about teaching the next generation. I love being with the kids and helping them with whatever they need. But luckily I meet some of them when I’m going from house to house to talk about Ebola, and I encourage them to read and stay updated, so they don’t have that much catching up to do when school resumes,” he says.

The Ministry of Education has engaged thousands of teachers to help raise awareness on how community members can protect themselves, their families and communities from Ebola. UNICEF has provided funding and materials, and is working with the Ministry of Education and the local Education Sector Development Committee to roll out the training programme across Liberia.

Together with the Government of Liberia, and in close coordination with development partners, UNICEF is leading information efforts. Songs, radio dramas, videos and posters have been developed to help disseminating the messages on Ebola prevention.

“These efforts have been effective. We have seen communities change their behavior after hearing the messaging,” says Adolphus Scott, UNICEF Liberia Communications for Development Specialist. “Community-led action based on the messages has contributed to the reduction in the number of Ebola cases.”

“Ebola is still a threat in Liberia, with an average of 20 new cases being reported on a daily basis” he says. “Communities have to remain vigilant and make sure safe practices continue. Only then can we defeat Ebola in Liberia and the region.”


 

 

UNICEF Photography: On Ebola's fontlines

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