Schools to reopen for exams after H1N1 shutdown
KABUL, 17 November 2009 (IRIN) - The government has
decided to reopen all schools from 23 November to 12
December to allow 7.5 million schoolchildren across
Afghanistan to take exams.
On 1 November Afghanistan’s National Disasters
Management Commission declared an H1N1 health
emergency and ordered a shutdown of all schools and
universities for three weeks. Up to nine million
students and teachers were affected by the decision
which was also criticized by some observers as
Universities will remain closed and students will
have to take their annual exams in the spring of 2010,
Over the past month more than 500 H1N1 cases and 14
fatalities have been confirmed, according to MoPH. In
total over 820 H1N1 cases (Afghans and foreigners)
have been reported since July 2009.
"Certainly we are concerned about the health of
students during the exams," Faizullah Kakar, deputy
minister in the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), told
IRIN, adding that the UN World Health Organization
(WHO) in Geneva was consulted on the reopening of
Schools in the cold regions (65 percent of schools)
will be closed until March 2010 but in warmer regions
- such as Kandahar, Khost and Nangarhar provinces -
school will resume after 12 December, according to the
Ministry of Education (MoE).
MoE has given assurances strong H1N1 preventive
measures will be implemented during the school exams.
"Students must wear warm clothes, avoid
hand-shaking and wear masks where possible," Abdul
Sabour Ghufrani, an official of the MoE in Kabul, told
"Classrooms should be kept warm during the exams
and students should be advised to comply with health
and hygiene standards," said an MoE statement on 17
November. The exams will take place 10am-2pm.
MoE has procured “some” masks which will be
distributed to the most vulnerable and poor students
while the rest will be advised to buy them, Ghufrani
"Students [schoolchildren] who show signs of flu
but do not wear masks will not be allowed to take the
exams," he said, adding that these schoolchildren
would have to take their exams in February 2010.
Washing hands with warm water and soap several
times a day has been strongly recommended by health
specialists as an effective measure to prevent
contracting the highly contagious H1N1 virus, but soap
is not available in Afghan public schools: "We do not
have resources to buy soap and place it in all
schools," Ghufrani said.
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