A boy from Sierra Leone has been banned from attending a school in Britain after parents became worried he could spread Ebola.
Nine-year-old Kofi Mason-Sesay was due to attend St Simon’s Catholic Primary School in Greater Manchester as part of an annual placement, but worried parents complained, saying he could pass the virus to their children.
Kofi’s mother, Miriam, hit back, calling the parents “ignorant” and saying: “We are being treated like lepers and it’s very sad.”
The Daily Mail reports that Mrs Mason-Sesay, who is English, runs a charity called EducAid which educates vulnerable children in Sierra Leone. She married a local man, Alhassan Sesay, in 2003 and Kofi was born in 2005. Alhassan died in 2009, however, and Mrs Mason-Sesay vowed never to travel without her son.
She returns to Britain twice a year to speak about the charity’s work, with Kofi accompanying her each time. He was offered a place at St Simon’s during his mother’s visits, however this time parents have stopped him attending the school.
“The school and its governors have been extremely supportive,” Mrs Mason-Sesay said, “but I’m afraid they’ve been put under undue pressure by an aggressive minority spreading panic and ignorance about this virus.
“I am a reasonable citizen and mother – there is no way I would be wandering around with my nine-year-old if he had ebola. We have had one case in Britain, but just one, because we contain it.
“It is a difficult disease to catch but that point has not been taken on by these ignorant parents. We have absolutely no contact with sick people – we’re an education charity.”
In a letter to parents, the school’s head teacher said that she and the school’s governors had decided “with a heavy heart” to stop Kofi’s visit.
She wrote: “It is with great sadness that we decided to cancel the visit; the misguided hysteria emerging is extremely disappointing, distracting us from our core purpose of educating your children and is not an environment that I would wish a visitor to experience.”
Some parents have defended their actions, however. Richard Chamberlain told the Daily Mail that he had considered taking his children out of school if Kofi had been allowed to attend.
“All the information we get in the media is that this disease has an incubation over 21 days, as far as we are concerned he could be ill by day 20 – who knows?
“The risk is not worth taking. I absolutely would be worried if he was here.”