Schools are reopening across Guinea after seven months of closure due to the Ebola crisis.
Hundreds of children who have missed out on lessons since July 2014 are returning to classes to continue their studies.
Child rights organisation Plan International welcomes the news, urging international governments to provide expertise and funding to support Ebola-affected countries in re-opening schools responsibly.
Francis Sala-Diakanda Country Director of Plan in Guinea, said that the re-opening of Guinea’s schools is a boost for children across the nation.
“The Ebola crisis has forced many schools to close across the affected countries. As a result, children’s education has been severely interrupted and their learning needs unmet for several months.
“Children who are out of school and those who have become orphaned are at risk of early and forced marriage and other forms of abuse and exploitation, including child labour. “
Official estimates put the death toll from Ebola at 8429 people (WHO, 14 January 2015) across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The death rate is slowing, but thousands of children have been orphaned by the virus, with many now unable to pay the fees to return to school.
“There aren’t many pupils this morning, but I’m happy to come back at school,” said Sayon Camara, a pupil in Kissidougou, one of the Ebola-affected areas.
“Given that many children have lost almost a year of education, measures should be devised to ensure children are not disadvantaged, and are able to catch up on lost learning,” added Sala-Diakanda.
“This may include declaring 2014 a ‘revision’ year, and allocating some time for health messaging and psycho-social support during this new school year.”
There are also reports that schools will re-open in Liberia next month, six months after classrooms closed in September 2014.
President Ellen Sirleaf announced in early January that schools will re-open on 2nd February 2015.
In Sierra Leone, where schools are not planning to reopen yet, Plan has been helping to develop radio programmes to reach those missing out.
The charity is also supplying 22,500 solar radios to some of the poorest children, especially girls, so they can tune in.
Most schools remain closed due to the impact and restrictions caused by Ebola, severely affecting the education of millions of children.