News(Foreign):New school year begins in Iran amidst concerns, criticism

The school year in Iran began on Saturday after a near six-month shutdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, with parents voicing concerns despite authorities pledging to enforce health protocols.

Some 15 million pupils in the Islamic republic returned to class, mostly remotely, as the country continues to battle its Covid-19 outbreak, the deadliest in the Middle East with over 22,000 killed and more than 384,000 infected since the first cases were confirmed in February.

The first day of classes at Nojavanan high school in northeastern Tehran was attended by a slew of officials and journalists, as well as students.

President Hassan Rouhani appeared in a video to inaugurate the new academic year at the school — a break with tradition that drew fire from some Iranians online who thought he should have come in person if students were required to be present.

Education Minister Mohsen Haji-Mirzaei looked to assuage parents’ concerns in a speech after he rang the bell to launch the new school year.

“I hope that families trust us and rest assured that the ministry will exercise utmost vigilance” regarding health protocols, he said.

Pupils and other attendees wore masks and were required to pass through a disinfection tunnel, have their temperatures checked and sit socially distanced in the schoolyard.

Other anti-virus measures at schools include keeping classes to 35 minutes and requiring students and staff to stay one metre (three feet) apart and wear masks, according to Iran’s anti-virus taskforce.

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