The 2017/2018 School Year has started in earnest and many children are happily being sent off to school by their loving parents who have the children fully loaded with their school bags, books and new uniforms. However, another set of Sierra Leonean children are not that lucky. These are Orphans who lost one or both parents to the Ebola Virus Disease that ravaged this country in the years 2014 and 2015. Known simply as Ebola Orphans, there are thousands of them living around the Mano River Union basin of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In particular, hundreds of them around Sierra Leone suffer to get proper education as their guardians just don’t have the means with which to support them fully.
To ameliorate their plight the APC led Government of H.E. President Koroma has collaborated with the President of the regional body of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Protection, Gender and Children Affairs.
As a result, the Honourable Minister responsible for Children and Social Welfare in Sierra Leone Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, has this week on Wednesday October 18th 2017, launched the start of an educational support scheme for 1,000 Ebola Orphans around the country.
Jointly funded by ECOWAS and the Ministry, the project will ensure at least 400 orphans from Western Area and up to 600 from the Provinces get school bags and other school items as well as cash transfer of Le200,000 given to guardians of orphans in Primary Schools and Le300,000 given to guardians of orphans in Secondary Schools. The cash transfer is to enable the guardians purchase new uniforms and shoes.
The project is being implemented nationwide by the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors (SLAES) who are now the Key Partners of Government in all social protections issues for Ebola-affected citizens. In her statement, Minister Blyden said the Government and Partners have spent a lot of time and money on capacitating SLAES to be a self-motivated entity capable of implementing projects. She said today the Government is very proud of SLAES and fully trusted them so SLAES is being used as a key Implementing Partner of the Government.
Hon. Blyden highlighted that President Koroma has been keeping to his promise to Ebola affected citizens which include Ebola Orphans across the country.
Whilst burnishing credentials of Hon. Chernoh Chericoco Bah, her party’s Vice Presidential candidate for the 2018 elections, the Minister said Bah is well known for giving out scholarships to hundreds of needy children across the country. The Minister said the APC government has always been concerned about Educating the next generation.
To loud applause, she said she has already made a request to ECOWAS which request was being “very seriously considered” for this educational support to such orphans to continue next academic year and future years. This year’s support was worth half a billion leones and will provide support to 1,000 Ebola Orphans.
She said the orphans have lost parents but should not lose hope as Government is there for them. She encouraged the guardians and caregivers of the orphans to take good care of the orphans saying “it is only God who can adequately reward” for such. She strongly advised that the cash transfer collected was to be applied only for educational support and nothing else.
The President of SLAES, Yusuf Kabba said they are very thankful to the Government especially Minister Blyden for her patience and love for Ebola affected citizens. He said the orphans have lost their parents but Dr. Blyden is there as a mother for all the orphans across the country.
He said the happiness of these orphans is very important to the survivors association as many of the children’s parents died in front of survivors in Ebola Treatment Centers where they had all been admitted. He said whilst the parents were dying, they were begging others not to forget the children they were leaving behind. So those who survived the disease owe it to those who died.
“This is why we are implementing this project as we owe it to them who died in front of our eyes,” Mr. Yusuf Kabba said.
The distribution and verification will last for three days in Western Area following which the Ebola Survivors are going to travel around the entire country with support of Ministry officials to distribute the cash transfer and other educational materials to needy Ebola Orphans.