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EGYPT: Students' dilemma as swine flu forces schools to shut down

November 11, 2009 |  6:45 am

Iphoto_1254755467272-1-0jpgThousands of parents have been left clueless about their children's fate after a number of private and public schools were forced to close as a result of the growing H1N1 infections.
The Ministry of Health announced this week that 466 confirmed cases of swine flu have been reported among students throughout the country. The increasing numbers prompted the Ministry of Education's decision to shut down at least 22 schools and quarantine students in dozens of classrooms in other schools that have remained open. 
The ongoing procedures have raised fear among parents, especially after the Ministry of Health said that a decision may be made to close schools nationwide if cases of pneumonia and H1N1 continue to rise. Many already doubt whether end-of-semester exams, originally scheduled for January, will be held as planned or not. 
"We really don't know what will happen; we paid our sons' full fees for the current school year and we are scared the ministry might end up closing down all schools," said a father of two boys studying in an international school in Cairo. 

While private and international schools have found a saving grace in providing their students with daily curriculums and assignments on the Internet, students of public and less-equipped institutions were left with no other choice than costly and privately organized classes, which are being held at homes and nongovernmental education centers.
"My children never depended on private classes. They are too expensive and we were only counting on school education, but now I'm obliged to enroll my kids into one of those centers after their school was closed," says a parent whose son and daughter study at a public school in the Giza area.
According to official figures issued by the operations room at the Egyptian Cabinet's information and decision support center, the student cases of swine flu have raised the overall tally in Egypt to 1,881 cases.
So far, 1,746 people have fully recovered from the virus. The others are still being treated at hospitals.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Swine flu invades Egyptian schools. Credit: AFP