May 2nd 2020SIX YEARS ago Rosaline Margai’s secondary-school education came to a halt just as it was about to begin. In 2014-15 schools in Sierra Le
SIX YEARS ago Rosaline Margai’s secondary-school education came to a halt just as it was about to begin. In 2014-15 schools in Sierra Leone were closed for nine months because of the Ebola outbreak in west Africa. Six years later her schooling has again been interrupted. Covid-19 has caused Sierra Leone to close its schools and to cancel or postpone exams. Ms Margai was determined to start college by the age of 17. “I will turn 17 soon,” she explains. “But I fear I will not be able to take exams in time.”
Across west Africa memories of the devastation caused by Ebola and the school shutdowns are still fresh. Education for 5m children was severely disrupted. The luckiest met sporadically in small groups in homes. Others listened to government-provided education programmes by radio. But for many, learning stopped altogether.
Children were more likely to go to work. Sexual exploitation increased. Unplanned teen pregnancies rose sharply. “When you live in a country that already struggles to keep kids in school, and then schools are closed and poverty goes…