British-run school in Cambodia expels HIV-positive girl
British-managed Footprints Schools expelled the seven-year-old girl within hours of becoming aware of her HIV status, say parents.16 May 2008
PHNOM PENH - The foster parents of a seven-year-old Cambodian girl are considering legal action after a foreign-managed private school expelled the child for being HIV positive.
The Cambodian-owned, British-managed Footprints School in the capital, which bills itself as to international-standard and offering "well trained, caring, professional staff," expelled the girl within hours of becoming aware of her HIV status, the parents said.
Her Australian foster mother, who asked not to be named for privacy reasons, said she believed Footprints had acted contrary to Ministry of Education anti-discrimination legislation but said she expected few repercussions against a wealthy private school.
"We just gave the school a list of her medications, but they looked them up and put two and two together," she said.
"Her teacher asked some pointed questions and I didn't lie to him ... and within 24 hours everyone in the school seemed to know and she was out," she said.
A woman who identified herself as the director of studies at Footprints said by telephone that the school did not have an HIV/AIDS policy in place and despite the girl's unblemished three months at the school prior to the discovery, she had to leave.
"We are worried about the rest of the children," she said, acknowledging that the child's HIV status was behind the decision.
But there was also a more cynical reason behind the decision in the lucrative but under-regulated post-war Cambodian private school system, she admitted, citing public stigma surrounding the virus.
"We are a private school, and although we would try to keep information like this confidential, there is no guarantee it would not become public," she said.
That could result in the school losing business as panicked parents withdrew their children, she said.
But UNAIDS Cambodian coordinator Tony Lisle said Friday it was a clear breech of the child's human rights, based on ignorance.
"There is no reason for her not to be at school. There is no evidence anywhere in the world that a child, even playing in a playground, can infect other children," he said.
"The school should protect the child's confidentially and treat her exactly the same way they would any other student," he said. "There is no reason why this should happen to this or any other child."
Cambodia has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the region.
[dpa / Expatica]