Fear and poverty are keeping many children in Sierra Leone out of classrooms and on the streets hawking or labouring- another effect of the Ebola outbreak that kept schools closed for nine months.
Four weeks into a new term, a third of the seats in Freetown’s Kroo Bay Community Primary School are still empty.
“Most [parents] complain that they don’t have the money to send kids to school. There are many challenges in the school and the community. Kids have a lot of fear,” headmaster Abdul Bundu Kamara told IRIN.
To counter this, public information campaigns have been launched, to persuade parents that schools are safe and precautions have been put in place.
To reduce the risk of Ebola spreading, restrictions on people’s movements, public gatherings and business hours are still in place in Sierra Leone. Trading is prohibited after 6 pm on weekdays, after noon on Saturdays and all day on Sundays.