Manama: Bahrain is planning to use mosques to promote public awareness about the swine flu and ease panic about its spread and effects.
Mosques have remained, despite warnings by health officials about large meetings, the most significant places of gathering for thousands of people and Bahrain is now planning to ask imams, whose words are often trusted and heeded by worshippers, to explain the facts about swine flu.
The imams, who will be given lectures by doctors about the H1N1 virus and ways to avoid and treat it, will pass on the information to worshippers.
The mosque campaign follows the launch this week of new programmes on Bahrain television that present facts about the swine flu and offer advise to the public on how to deal with it responsibly.
Both public campaigns seek to reduce the swelling panic in Bahrain following the closure of several private schools after students tested positive for the flu and the postponement of the re-opening of the government schools, nurseries, kindergartens and schools for students with special needs.
The announcement on Wednesday by two private colleges and the College of Medical Sciences that they will postpone their academic year by one week has reinforced the quasi-paralysis of the educational institutions in Bahrain.
The three colleges said that they would check all their students and teachers and would set up special isolation rooms to help contain the risk of swine flu.
The education ministry's decisions to close some private schools and to re-open public schools gradually in October have split the nation.
Several parents applauded the postponement, saying that they feared about the health of their children and ultimately their own families. However, critics said that the school closures and postponement were increasing the tension and causing unnecessary social tension.
“They will now re-open the elementary schools in late October. What happens if cases were detected then? Would the schools be closed again? And for how long? The World Health Organisation has recommended not closing schools, but its advice is obviously being ignored,'' one parent complained.
However, the education ministry insisted that despite the postponements, students will be attending school for 180 days, as initially scheduled, implying that the two-day week-end or the mid-year holidays could be shortened or that the academic year could be extended.
Changes to the regular academic year have already pushed the labour ministry to intervene to defuse mounting tension between kindergartens and their registered teachers.
Most kindergartens, usually open in mid-September, have refused to pay their teachers for the month, on the grounds that they did not work, while teachers are claiming that as professionals in the kindergartens, they were entitled to their salaries.
Majeed Al Alawi, the labour minister, said that teachers would be given financial compensation from the unemployment fund.
With the start of the new football season this week-end, the General Organisation for Youth and Sports (GOYS) is seeking closer cooperation with the health authorities to reduce H1N1 contagion risks in the country's various stadiums.
“It is our duty to be part of the national efforts to promote awareness about the swine flu and help limit its impact. We will do our utmost to ensure that all athletes, players, coaches and fans are not affected by the swine flu,'' Shaikh Fawwaz Bin Mohammad Al Khalifa, the president of GOYS, said. “Our coordination with the health ministry is critical for the success of our efforts, especially that sports games attract a large number of people,'' he said.