A school has been forced to cancel a visit from a West African charity aid worker and her son due to the “misguided hysteria” of parents who fear their children could be infected by Ebola.
Kofi Mason-Sesay, a 9 year-old-boy who is from Sierra Leone, was expected to study St Simon’s Catholic Primary School in Stockport for a month while his mother, Miriam, was in the country on fundraising duties for the charity EducAid, which runs a network of free schools for vulnerable youngsters in the West African country.
Ms Mason-Sesay, who is from the UK but has lived in Sierra Leone since 2000, and her son had both been screened for the disease and had been granted unrestricted movement in the UK.
Last month the school tried to reassure parents that the forthcoming visit posed no risk to the pupils.
The school even took advice from health chiefs in the borough and passed on Public Health England's guidance that anyone travelling from affected countries who were free of symptoms were not infectious.
But yesterday, headteacher Elizabeth Inman was forced to cancel the trip in the face of parental opposition.
In a letter to parents, Ms Inman wrote that "with a very heavy heart" the school and its governors had taken "the pragmatic decision" to stop the visit despite Ms Mason-Sesay and her son being given the all clear.
She said: "I understand that there is a lot of misinformation about how Ebola is spread. A significant number of parents have been in touch with me to express their fears. As you know, I always listen to parents.
Ebola cannot be spread as some parents have suggested.
"There are many parents who believe that the visit should have gone ahead and that we are contributing to misunderstandings by cancelling it.
"In this instance, it has been very hard to juggle justice to Miriam and the views of parents. Of course I would never endanger any child or colleague and I have to put my trust in the professionals.
"It is with great sadness that we decided to cancel the visit; the misguided hysteria emerging is extremely disappointing, distracting us from our core purpose of educating your children and is not an environment that I would wish a visitor to experience."
The head suggested to parents that a sizeable donation should be made instead to EducAid to recognise its work in a country "which has received more than its share of setbacks".