back to school amid fears and controversy

Schools have reopened during controversy in Iran, a country hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Iranian president, who usually visits a facility, began the school year with a video conference, which was criticized by parents and the opposition.

Iranian authorities have failed to allay fears expressed by parents of Iranian students about the coronavirus pandemic. Fifteen million students were called to return to school on Saturday, September 5, in Iran.

After almost six months of nationwide school closures, the beginning of the school year was scattered, with a very varying dose of physical attendance and distance education, depending on region and level.

Traditionally, Iranian President Hassan Rohani did not personally go to a school to officially begin the new school year. It was his education minister, Mohsen Hadji Mirzai, who symbolically rang the bell at Nojavanan High School for Boys, in eastern Tehran, where students were smaller than journalists and politicians.

The president attended the ceremony through video conference, which brought him criticism. Rohani rings the bell from a distance and he wants me to send my son [à l’école]personally? “Reformist journalist Maziar Khosravi said on Twitter.

“How can they expect people to send their loved ones to school by relying on protocols [sanitaires]if the president himself does not submit to it? tweeted filmmaker Mahmoud Razavi, close to the Conservatives.

35-minute lessons and compulsory mask

The controversy had already begun before the start of the school year with the publication of an open letter from the head of the medical system, Mohammad-Réza Zafarghandi, who described as “contradictory” the health rules prescribed for schools. He was particularly concerned that asymptomatic students could easily spread the virus in the classroom.

“I hope that families trust us and I want to assure them that the ministry will show its utmost vigilance” in everything related to the health of their children, the Minister of Education explained.

According to accepted protocols, the lessons in the class should not be longer than 35 minutes, a distance of at least one meter must be respected between each student and it is mandatory to wear a mask for everyone in the schools. The students go through a disinfection cabin and their temperature is checked at the entrance.

In his TV message, Hassan Rouhani called for “the strictest discipline, similar to that of a military training camp”.

More than 22,150 dead from Covid-19

However, parents and teachers do not hide their fears. Iran is the country in the Middle East and the Middle East hardest hit by the new coronavirus pandemic. The disease officially killed more than 22,150 people out of a total of 385,000 infected.

“It is very difficult (…) to teach children to respect health protocols and the rules of physical distance,” the director of Nojavan High School, Nasrine Mobini, told AFP. “We’re all worried, my colleagues, parents, everyone.”

Amiri, a 60-year-old literature teacher, thinks the situation is “stressful” but believes that the presence of students and teachers in the class is essential in the beginning to get to know each other and start the year well.

Azarakche, a mother of a student who does not give her last name, says she brought her son to school for the day not without “stress and anxiety.” But she prefers that he take lessons in school, provided health records are “really” followed.