Sierra Leone said on Wednesday that it had postponed by two weeks the reopening of schools, shut for almost eight months to halt the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
The reopening had been set for March 30 as the rate of new infections slowed but the date was pushed back to April 14 with a spurt in new cases.
Education Minister Minkailu Bah said authorities were taking adequate measures "to ensure that our schools are safe and disinfected so that our children can return to school" without any risk.
He added however that schools in quarantined areas would not be reopening on that day.
Classrooms have been empty since the government announced a state of emergency in July last year in response to an outbreak which has killed around 10,300 people, almost all of them in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
More than 3,700 of the deaths were in Sierra Leone alone, according to the World Health Organization's latest figures.
Authorities have released 67 billion leones (around 13.8 million euros, $15 million) to build toilets and instal wells and hand pumps in more than 2,700 schools, Cole added.
Sylvester Meheux, the chief of a body grouping high school heads, said he was keen on getting 1.7 million pupils back to school because "the closure has had a very disastrous effect on many pupils, especially girls," with many getting pregnant in the interim period.
More than a third of Sierra Leone's population of six million are aged between three and 17.
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