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Egyptian Schools Remain Closed Due to H1N1 Threat

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Schools in Egypt have been in an on-again-off-again cycle since the beginning of the school year due to worries over the swine flu threat. Since Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif announced that schools would start the year a week late, there has been a sense of apprehension among school official, teachers, parents and students about if or how the school year would play out.

CAIRO –Schools in Egypt have been in an on-again-off-again cycle since the beginning of the school year due to worries over the swine flu threat. Since Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif announced that schools would start the year a week late, there has been a sense of apprehension among school official, teachers, parents and students about if or how the school year would play out.

Despite the relatively low amount of known cases of the virus, the closing of schools has had a large effect on the many residents, including IQOU students studying in Egypt.

Mahmud Abdus-Sabur, who began his second year at an Al Azhar affiliated school, which has not been completely closed, but has shortened many class schedules, has seen class times reduced to three days a week instead of the usual five. “I expected to be well into my subjects by this time,” he said. “But with the shortened classes I’m required to do most of my studies on my own.”

The Ministry of Health has been cautious regarding the disease, which has caused worldwide hysteria since it was first identified in Mexico in March. A large supply of swine flu vaccines has been received and is ready for distribution, but its administration has been hindered in large part due to paranoia over its composition and potential side effects. This has prompted both Minister of Health Hetam el-Gabali as well as Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar Mohamed Tantawi to take the vaccine in public venues to curb fears.

A university professor, Dalia Nayer is erring on the side of caution, deciding to wait until hajj pilgrims, who have already received the vaccine, return. “The testing of swine flu vaccine has been rushed and I feel there might be a danger,” she told the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram. “After watching the health minister take it on TV I thought I might change my mind, but I’ve decided to wait and see.”

For now, schools are planned to return to normal scheduling in early December, but much uncertainty remains. “I don’t expect things to get back to normal before the end of the year,” said Mahmud. “But I guess it’s better to be cautious than not.”

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