THEY were eagerly looking forward to the trip and spent months raising the money needed to meet the cost of flights and other expenses.
But eight Hampshire teenagers have each been left almost £2,000 out of pocket after their school withdrew its support for their four-week expedition to Kenya, claiming it was too dangerous.
It comes after teachers from all the schools involved in the trip travelled to Kenya to carry out a routine risk assessment.
Their pre-arranged visit took place just weeks after gunmen attacked the Westgate shopping mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and killed more than 60 people, including several Britons.
The Arnewood School in New Milton originally supported the Camps International trip, despite the shootings. But now the school is refusing to allow a member of staff to accompany the students after accusing Camps International of putting expedition members at risk by changing its travel plans – a claim the company denies.
Following the school’s decision, eight of the 15 pupils pulled out of the project and are demanding a refund. But Camps International is refusing to hand back the £1,980 they have paid towards the cost of the £3,860 trip, claiming the money is non-refundable under an agreement signed by the students’ families.
The Ringwood-based business says parents are now pursuing Arnewood and its head teacher Chris Hummerstone on the grounds that the expedition was originally advertised as a school trip.
The month-long visit to Kenya is due to take place in July.
Students from Arnewood and other schools will take part in several environmental projects and will also get a chance to go scuba diving.
But an Arnewood spokesman said staff had “serious safety concerns” about the expedition.
He said Camps International had changed its original flight arrangements, altering the destination from Mombasa to Nairobi, which, he said, involved a longer and riskier journey to the camps. He added: “It is with great regret that we can no longer support this particular visit.
“We have held meetings with parents to inform them of our decision and the reasons why, but as this is not a school-organised trip we cannot make the final decision on whether students travel or not.”
But Camps International said people taking part in its Kenyan trips “predominantly” went via Nairobi.
A spokesman said: “We will never operate in an environment or location where there is an unacceptable risk to our clients or staff. There is absolutely no reason for Arnewood to have withdrawn its support.”