Education Response for the Ebola Crisis

This webpage aims at providing up-to-date education guidelines, manuals and news in the evolving Ebola response, as well as links to key websites.

The Education Response for the Ebola Crisis (click to access) supports operational agencies responding to Ebola providing all available technical guidelines, manuals, coordination and training related information. The DROPBOX continues to be updated on a regular basis; if you have any relevant documents to share, please send them by email to

Situation Overview

In March 2014, a rapidly evolving outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) started in Guinea. The outbreak subsequently spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and more recently to Mali, with a few cases outside Africa in Spain and the US. Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have the highest number of Ebola cases. On 8 August, the World health Organisation (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and the first-ever UN emergency health mission, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) was set up to respond to immediate needs and to coordinate the response.

The EVD outbreak is unprecedented in scale and geographical reach and has consequences for the populations of the affected countries, impacting their livelihoods, societies, economies and their governance, security and political stability.

Impact on Education

UNI173886Since the Ebola outbreak, according to UNICEF an estimated 5 million children and youth have been denied access to education in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as schools did not re-open at the start of the new school year in September 2014. Before the Ebola outbreak, just 58% of children attended primary school in Guinea; 74% in Sierra Leone; and 34% in Liberia. The impact of prolonged school closures in a region with some of the lowest education indicators in the world is dire and the outbreak has negative consequences on the availability of teachers, the safety of school premises, vulnerability of girls and women and, in the longer term, the ability of affected countries to accelerate economic and social development.

Children and youth’s well-being is also impacted by school closures as school provides a sense of stability, hope and helps to mitigate the psychosocial impact of a crisis. Thousands of children have lost parents and
caregivers and are at increased risk of homelessness, neglect and malnutrition. The Ebola crisis has made the poorest families even more vulnerable, increasing the risk of children being forced to work to contribute to the household economy and subsequently lose out on their education. The longer a child stays out of school the less likely they are to return.

As Ebola robs children of schooling, the seeds are also being sown for ongoing problems in public health: the more educated people are, the more likely they are to keep themselves, their families and communities safe. In the affected countries, fear and misunderstanding about Ebola is intense and widespread, which is also complicating the efforts of health workers to contain the disease. In some cases, people suspected of being ill with the virus, including medical practitioners caring for the sick, face discrimination because of a lack of knowledge about the disease.

As cases of Ebola are decreasing, schools have officially reopened on  the 19th of January in Guinea and on the 18th of February in Liberia. In Sierra Leone there has not been the same decrease of Ebola cases as in Guinea and Liberia, and schools are expected to reopen on the 30sth of March.

Education ResponseEmpty Classroom_Liberia

Decisions regarding when to reopen schools are made by the governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Education partners support the reopening of schools and are helping to ensure that schools are safe and protective places to learn. Education partners are helping to develop and implement protocols that need to be in place before schools reopen to reduce the risk of Ebola transmission on school premises.

As an alternative to regular education the affected countries develop educational radio programmes to inform listeners about Ebola as well as to educate on numeracy and literacy. It has been decided to train teachers as social mobilizers for sharing information and educating communities about ebola. In Sierra Leone over 7,000 teachers have been included in the House to House campaign as social mobilizers. Furthermore, in the three most affected countries teacher training materials on Ebola prevention and how to operate safe and protective learning environments are being produced.

Liberia: The Education Cluster has been activated in Liberia only. Three Rapid Response Team members (two coordinators and one IM specialist) have been deployed. As cases of Ebola are ebbing in Liberia, the Education Cluster  works hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, Save the Children and many other committed partners to ensure schools are reopened with proper safety measures in place. The Cluster has identified partners to coordinate at the sub-national level and is working to find committed partners to implement the Protocols for Safe School Environments in the Ebola Outbreak in Liberia in every district. This includes Last Mile Distribution of infection prevention equipment, training on the Protocols for school staff and PTA members, implementation of emergency WASH in schools, and community mobilization. The end result of this effort will be a coordinated response in which more than 20 agencies ensure over 1.2 million children return to learning throughout the country when schools reopen on 16 February.

NA Report Liberia_Feb 2015_ThumbnailThe Education Cluster has also been conducting a Joint Education Needs Assessment in 9 out of 15 counties around the country.  Data has been collected from school administrators at 351 randomly selected schools as well as 40 focus group discussions with learners and 40 additional focus group discussions with learners’ parents.  Findings will inform the second phase of the response which includes school improvement and enhanced quality education. The findings will also be integral to the Liberian education sector review to be held in March.

Sierra Leone: Save the Children deployed an Emergency Response Personnel (ERP) to coordinate the education response in Sierra Leone, and on February 17th Sigbjorn Ljung from the ECU was deployed for a 6-week assignment to provide IM support. In Sierra Leone there has not been the same decrease of Ebola cases as in Guinea and Liberia. Still, the country is now also developing safe school reopening protocols, and it has been proposed for schools to reopen on the 30sth of March.

Ebola_Advocacy Brief-300Guinea: The Ministry of Education in Guinea has been far ahead in terms of preparations for school reopening, and all 12,000 schools in Guinea were scheduled to reopen by the 19th of January. There has been produced safe school reopening protocols in Guinea, and all teachers have received a short training on the protocols. Though, there will be great needs of reinforcement of knowledge for the 20,000 teachers who have been trained. Furthermore, all hygiene kits and thermos flasks have been procured and distributed to the 12,000 schools.

Advocacy Brief on Education in the Ebola crisis

Education in Ebola Advocacy Brief_Big ThumbnailThe Global Education Cluster, UNICEF, Save the Children and INEE’s joint advocacy brief Safe Access to Learning, During and After the Ebola Crisis highlights how the Ebola crisis impacts education, and how education is helping prevent Ebola. In Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, education partners are supporting the reopening of schools and continued learning for out-of-school children and youth. The brief also includes four key recommendations to ensure all schools are safe before they open and to secure long-term education opportunities for all children in a region with some of the lowest education indicators in the world: 1) make schools safe and supportive; 2) support home-learning; 3) strengthen the education system; 4) recognise the role of education in the Ebola response.


*Ebola Crisis – photograph credits: © UNICEF/NYHQ2014-2046/La Rose and UNICEF/NYHQ2015-0054/UNMEER Martine Perret

updated on 26 February 2015


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