SARS Leads Volunteer Teachers in China to Come Home

SARS Leads Volunteer Teachers in China to Come Home

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Brigham Young University and a Provo-based language-education program are pulling volunteer teachers out of China because of fears about SARS.

But the pullout isn't rooted solely in the fear of contracting severe acute respiratory syndrome. There's also a fear that medical care in the country may not be adequate.

Jared Hansen, director of ILP, said the risk of getting SARS is still very low, but he is concerned that medical care won't be available to those who might need medical attention for something else.

"There isn't a semester that goes by without someone getting appendicitis or something," he said. "With SARS, we're looking at a problem getting care," Hansen said.

He also said it was becoming increasingly difficult to board a plane leaving the country.

Last month, Provo's International Language Program sent letters to its 106 teachers advising them to leave China until the SARS scare is over.

Then, Brigham Young University on May 5 pulled 27 students and faculty involved in the Chinese Teachers Program from the country.

BYU sends men, women and couples as volunteer teachers to 17 Chinese universities in eight cities. They teach English, law and engineering classes.

The Mormon church-owned university expects all 70 of its charges to be home within the next week. Those coming home will undergo a voluntary two-week isolation, but no one has shown any symptoms or reported any exposure to the SARS virus, said BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins.

Hansen is worried about the impact on the schools in China that depend on the volunteers to teach English.

SARS has infected more than 7,800 people around the world and killed 625.

Teachers for ILP pay a $2,000 program fee to go to China and teach for free.

Volunteers for the BYU program are paid a salary by the Chinese institutions.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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