Although the British Council has already blocked all School visits to and from Ebola outbreak countries, a British school has gone one step further by postponing a planned visit by a Ghanaian teacher after a group of parents raised concerns, despite efforts by the headmaster to persuade to drop their objections.
Parents of the Howden-Le-Wear primary (Junior) school in co. Durham, England reacted with concern to the news of the visit, which is part of a series of annual programmes run by the ‘Connecting Classrooms’ initiative. Although Ghana has not yet had any reported cases of Ebola, the parental group sought “total reassurance” there would be no infection risk, which the school was unable to provide, reports The Express.
Headmaster Christopher Baines tried to reassure parents that the teacher was not an infection risk, but was unsuccessful and the trip, which he called “enriching” was cancelled until further notice after parents threatened to withdraw their children from the school. Headmaster Baines said: “We have listened carefully to concerns raised by all sections of the school and community and have balanced these with the expert advice we have been given. Whilst we are confident this advice remains sound we feel the best thing to do, at this time, is to look forward to the visit at a later date”.
In a recent study tracing infection vectors and international air traffic, American academics identified Ghana as the most likely nation in the world to become infected with Ebola by the end of October, beating even the Cote d’Ivoire, which borders Ebola-stricken areas. If the figures released by the Northeastern University are correct, Ebola has already infected Ghanians, but the theorectical cases have yet to become known to health organisations. The use of Ghana as a hub for aid organisations to fly in equipment to affected areas is considered to have significantly increased the risk.
The ‘Connecting Classrooms’ initiative is a programme of teacher exchanges paid for by the British government through the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office. It allows foreign teachers to travel to the UK to learn about Western methods of education, while sending British teachers abroad for cultural enrichment. Although most participating nations are in Africa, the initiative also includes Argentina, Pakistan, and the Palestinian territories. Project grants can be worth up to £1,500 in each of the 5,200 schools now participating.
Speaking of her experience in the programme, British teacher Charlie Bryan said during her trip to Nigeria: “Often people see Nigeria as a poor country, and that’s the image my children see on TV, as a desolate place. And I don’t want my children to think like that… I understand now I do have to make my children more globally aware, and I think more about how I can incorporate that across the curriculum… it has become my aim now to make my school a more culturally rich place”.
Although a number of nations participating have been historically prone to Ebola outbreaks, or are bordering areas where the virus is presently active, the British Council told Breitbart London there had been no noticeable downturn in applications for funding, although they were watching the situation closely. A source said: “In the three countries that have been affected by Ebola – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – we have already postponed all scheduled schools visits until the advice changes that it is safe to travel to and from there”.