Tuskegee University students studying abroad this summer in Monrovia, Liberia, were scheduled to return to their homes in Alabama by the end of this week, but they might now be trapped in the Liberian capital for the rest of the month due to the spread of the Ebola virus.
Local NBC affiliate WSFA reports that the students will not be permitted to fly out of the country until at least August 31st, as British Airways, the airline they had planned to use to return to the United States, has canceled all flights out of Liberia and Sierra Leone, fearing the spread of the virus. There is no guarantee that the six students will be able to return home then, as the airline has reserved the right not to renew its services to and from Liberia and Sierra Leone after August 31st. In a statement released Wednesday, a British Airways spokesperson said, “The safety of our customers, crew and ground teams is always our top priority and we will keep the route under constant review in the coming weeks.”
According to WSFA, Tuskegee University has told media sources that the students are “in good spirits and not ill.” The president of Tuskegee University, Brian Johnson, also released a statement:
University officials are awaiting additional information to be shared after a meeting with the study abroad program host, the U.S. Embassy and British Airways representatives tomorrow morning. … The safety of our students is of the utmost importance and Tuskegee University is making every effort to ensure their safe and speedy return.
The university’s website also lists the students currently in Liberia with Professor Thierno Thiam, who teaches political science. Thiam leads students in “serv[ing] as mentors at African Methodist Episcopal University’s bridge program, which is designed to attract and prepare high school students for college.”
Two Americans have been diagnosed with Ebola since the beginning of the current outbreak in February: Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, both medical workers for the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse. Both Writebol and Dr. Brantly have been extracted from Liberia and are being treated at Emory University Hospital in Georgia. Dr. Brantly is reportedly improving after receiving a dose of experimental anti-Ebola serum. Writebol, who received the serum in Liberia after Dr. Brantly rejected the dose so that she could take it, is in stable condition at press time.