Because of the Ebola epidemic, schools are closed in Sierra Leone, a country with about 2 million school-aged children. So as the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history continues to rage, government officials have launched a project to deliver school lessons to those kids over the airwaves.
For six days a week, Sierra Leone's children can listen to four-hour lessons on dozens of the country's radio stations, along with its only television channel, the AFP reported.
It's hardly a perfect solution, but it seems to be the best option for education officials: As the Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools's Sylvester Meheaux told the AFP, schools there probably won't open until early 2015 at the soonest.
A single mother named Fatima Sheriff, living in Freetown, told the AFP she was worried the school closures would hit young, school-aged girls the hardest as "the end of their educational dreams as the choice of the going into prostitution and other vices loom."
The government program, which launched this week, has the support of many education advocates working in the country, including UNICEF.
Uche Ezirim, a Freetown-based education manager for UNICEF, said the lessons were critical for Sierra Leone's children, given that the Ebola epidemic effectively means that "school children cannot come together in a classroom to learn," without fear of catching the deadly virus.
The lessons, Ezirim added, will cover primary, secondary and senior secondary students, as well as a weekly preschool lesson on Fridays.
School-aged children make up a significant portion of Sierra Leone's population of nearly 6 million. By secondary school, however, only about 40 percent of male and 33 percent of female students still attend classes, according to UNICEF's statistics. About 75 percent of primary school-aged kids attend school.
Radio could very well be the best option while schools are closed: A 2007 study found that radio access in Sierra Leone ranges from 65 to 96 percent, with access higher in major cities.
However, that includes both those who own a radio and those who have access to someone else's. The actual ownership rate is about 25 percent across the country, according to the AFP.
UNICEF, Ezirim said, is trying to help the government maximize how many students are actually able to hear these lessons by "using village town criers to reach every house hold where there is a school-aged child to listen to the radio lessons."
The Ministry of Education Science and Technology is encouraging parents to keep their children chore-free during the lesson times.