Foreign snippets

Beijing schools shut down 

AUTHORITIES in China have ordered the closure of thousands of schools in Beijing and instructed their 1.7 million pupils to stay indoors in a further attempt to halt the spread of the SARS virus. 

Meanwhile, primary schools and kindergartens in Hong Kong will remain closed indefinitely. Education Secretary Arthur Li said they would reopen “later” but declined to give a definite date. However, he said junior secondary pupils will resume classes from Monday, joining the 200,000 older pupils who returned Wednesday. 

All schools were suspended on March 29 because of the outbreak. However, children have proved largely resistant to the worst effects of the virus and so far none have died and few of those who have fallen ill with SARS have ended up in Intensive Care units. – dpa 

Eton closes door on SARS 

TOP English school Eton is refusing to accept returning pupils if they have visited a SARS-infected area within 10 days of the start of term and other private schools have issued strict guidelines on pupils returning from the Far East. 

There are reported to be more than 7,000 children from China and Hong Kong studying at independent schools in Britain, where fees at top “public schools” like Eton can run to more than US$30,000 (RM114,000) a year. 

Guidelines issued to all independent schools recommended that pupils returning from high-risk destinations such as Hong Kong and Singapore should undergo regular medical examinations to check for symptoms linked to SARS. – dpa  

Czech teachers seek protection 

CZECH Republic teachers want to have their legal status adjusted to protect them from increasingly hostile students and parents. 

Teacher Union chairman Jaroslav Rossler said school violence is rising, and that teachers would benefit from a proposal to classify teachers as civil servants.  

“Assaulting a teacher is a criminal offence which today carries no consequences,” said Ruzena Salomonova of the South Moravian Teachers Union. “But if teachers became civil servants, whose assaults are a punishable act, that would be a deterrent.” Recently in some cities, police have been stationed inside schools to protect teachers. 

But the Education Ministry opposes the plan. Deputy Education Minister Jaroslav Mullner said teachers do not represent the state and therefore cannot be classified as civil servants. He said the government is addressing school violence in other ways. – dpa  

Smallest UK school stays shut 

THE reopening of Britain's smallest school has been cancelled because its sole pupil failed to turn up for class, The Times reported on Friday. 

The newspaper said the six-year-old girl's parents were unhappy with a teacher hired at public expense to teach the only primary school-aged youngster on Papa Stour, one of the Shetland Islands off the northeast coast of Scotland. 

Jane Puckey had been due to start teaching the girl on Tuesday, reopening a school that had been closed for the last nine months after its former teachers retired and its only other pupil moved on to secondary school. 

Despite having just one pupil, the school is well-equipped and has a secretary, three computers, a television and an art room as well as a school house with three bedrooms. – Reuters 

US firm to get Iraqi schools going 

CREATIVE Associates International, a company based in Washington, has won a US$62mil (RM235.6mil) contract from the US Agency for International Development to improve primary and secondary education in Iraq.  

The first goal will be to open Iraqi schools on schedule this fall, with enough equipment and supplies for all students. In the long term, the company will retrain teachers and school officials and introduce teaching methods to “lay the foundations for democratic practice and attitudes among students, parents and teachers,” according to the aid agency.  

“We're very pleased to have this,” said Robert Gordon, a spokesman for the company, which has worked in more than 60 countries, including Morocco and Afghanistan. – IHT 

Soyabean milk poisoning 

A NATURALLY occurring chemical found in soybean powder was responsible for the poisonings of hundreds of children who drank soyabean milk at a school in China's northeast, a local healthcare official said last week. 

Authorities launched an investigation into whether the poisoning was intentional after the students drank the milk on March 19 at a school in the city of Haicheng. Newspapers have reported that more than 3,000 children became sick and three died. 

The investigation into the incident was conducted jointly by the Health Ministry and Liaoning provincial health authorities. It wasn't clear whether any charges would be brought over the poisonings. – AP 

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