MONROVIA, Liberia — A couple of dozen students sat quietly inside the C.D.B. King Elementary School’s dim and dusty auditorium on their first morning back. Despite the stuffy heat, many of the children wore long sleeves and trousers that covered as much skin as possible.
A second grader wore pink knit mittens that muffled the sound of his clapping when the teachers introduced themselves. As everyone rose to sing Liberia’s national anthem, he saluted with his left hand, still sheathed in the mitten.
“Ebola destroyed and devastated our land,” Venoria Crayton, the vice principal, told her pupils. “It brought us sadness, it brought us pain. Some of your neighbors died, right? Some of your neighbors’ children died, right? But you are here.”
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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia met with President Obama at the White House on Friday.
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About eight months after governments in the region closed schools to stop the spread of Ebola, uniformed and backpack-carrying schoolchildren have returned to the streets of Monrovia, the capital, perhaps the most visible sign of the epidemic’s ebb.
But Liberia’s on-again, off-again back-to-school campaign is also a measure of the long shadow cast by Ebola, a disease that affected almost every facet of society in the hardest-hit countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.