Swine flu fears cause further cancellations

Two Oxbridge teaching camps to China have been cancelled following the concern over the spread of swine flu.

Oxford Cultural Exchange Project (OCEP) and the Oxbridge China Education Programme (OCSEP) were due to send students to teach in China during the summer.

However, OCEP has called off the programme as a response to fears over H1N1 swine flu. The email sent to students by the co-ordinator of the project, Thomas Hayward, expressed regret at the cancellation. He also admitted that it is not “likely that the schools will change their minds.”

Hayward explained that OCEP would send back all deposits and would cover the cost of flight cancellations or refunds. Alternative camps have been suggested for students who are keen to teach over the summer.

Hayward confirmed in a statement, “OCEP and our sponsors have been able to offer compensation from our contingency funds to those teachers affected by the cancellations. We hope very much to continue these projects next year once the current situation with H1N1 Swine Flu has been resolved.”

One student disappointed by the cancellation said, “It’s very frustrating. I know some of the teachers had already spent hours planning lessons. We’re very disappointed. I’ve had to reorganise my whole summer and I’m having trouble claiming back the price of the flights with my insurance company.”

Many were satisfied with OCEP’s conduct over the issue. “Obviously I was absolutely gutted when it was cancelled as I had spent a lot of time doing lesson plans etc., but OCEP treated me well in that they offered to refund all the costs incurred through flight cancellations and refund the deposit we paid,” said Amy Chapman, one of the participants of the programme.

“My only criticism of OCEP throughout the whole process was that we were left in the dark for a long time about what was going on with the swine flu situation. If we were told earlier then reorganising our summer would have been a lot less stressful.”

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However, Chapman found another placement thanks to OCEP. “As it happens I am still going to China on a programme called ‘Intochina’ to teach English still, which was recommended to us by someone in OCEP, so in that sense they were very useful in helping us find something else to do with our summer and our flights,” she said.

OCSEP’s programme in China was has also been cancelled, but alternatives are being arranged for students involved with the trip. In an e-mail sent to participants, a representative of the organisation apologised for the changes saying, “We’ve tried all means to save our program, but now we will have to cancel our planed OCSEP”.

The r

epresentative confirmed that a substitute solution is sought. “Our Chinese partners have been working on arranging an alternative camp so that all of you will still have a chance to teach and have a chance to experience China. We now have a substitute solution, where you will be teaching in an organized summer camp, teaching Chinese middle school students. We haven’t finalized our teaching plan yet but we expect all of you will have a chance to teach your prepared teaching materials.”

The new arrangements mean that students may now be separated between two cities, and will be teaching younger students. Those involved with the trip were given the opportunity to withdraw following the changes.

This is not the first time that summer trips to China have been cancelled due to the fears of swine flu. In early June Oxbridge Summer Camps Abroad (OSCA) charity has been forced to cancel a teaching camp to Hong Kong.

This was due to the ruling issued by the Hong Kong government, which stated that any school found to have swine flu would be closed for 2 weeks. OSCA felt the need to cancel the camp, as they couldn’t assure students that they will be able to teach. It is understood that many students who intended to go on the OSCA camp have nonetheless traveled out to Hong Kong.

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Other trips, such as that run by Study China, are going ahead as planned.