North Korea has delayed the start of school from June 1 to June 3 because so many schools throughout the country failed to properly disinfect their facilities, Daily NK has learned.

North Korean university students along with third-year high school students already returned to school on Apr. 17. First and second-year high school students, along with middle school students, elementary school students, and kids attending pre-schools and day cares were originally set to head back to school on June 1.

According to a Daily NK source in North Korea yesterday, the country’s disease control authorities conducted a nationwide review of disease control measures in place at schools  on May 30, but “there were so many schools that failed to make the cut that the education ministry quickly delayed the start of school to June 3.”

More than 60% of schools in Ryanggang Province while more than 70% of schools in North Hamgyong Province reportedly failed to pass the review. Around 50% of schools in Pyongyang also failed to past muster.

Faced with these results, the country’s education ministry quickly handed down an order to delay the start of school. Some areas of the country, however, failed to receive the message in time and students in these areas reportedly went to school on May 30 (when only morning classes were held) – only to find that school had not really started at all.
The source also told Daily NK that the government has largely failed to provide schools with the equipment needed to properly disinfect their facilities. In general, schools have had to find their own ways to acquire the equipment, but many have failed to do that.

Some schools reportedly collected “modernization fees” from students to pay for disinfection equipment. Students starting off at new schools (first-year elementary, middle and high school students) were asked to pay KPW 20,000 while other students paid just KPW 10,000.

While North Korean authorities have made the failure of the schools to properly disinfect their facilities the official reason for the delay, Daily NK’s source said that the delay is probably due to the generally unsanitary environment of many schools.

“There are a lot of schools that weren’t ready to reopen yet because of things like really dusty window sills or glass mirrors broken months ago not being replaced,” the source said.

MOBILIZING THE PARENTS

The source also told Daily NK that North Korean officials consider it so important to reopen schools on June 3 that they have “mobilized” the parents of students to disinfect and clean the schools on May 31 and that such activities will continue through June 1 and June 2.

“Despite the fact that North Korea is currently in the midst of the planting season, parents are taking part in cleaning up the schools – even if it means neglecting their planting duties,” the source said. “Parents who have regular day jobs head to work in the mornings and then go to the schools [to clean] at 2 PM. Parents who work at local markets go to the schools in the mornings and then head to work in the afternoons.”

The parents are reportedly doing various odd jobs around the schools, including cutting grass, picking weeds, shoveling out human waste from outdoor toilets, and spraying disinfectant in the classrooms.

“The [government] has provided disinfectant that doesn’t have any brand markings so it’s not clear where it came from, but high-level disease control authorities are saying that the disinfectant is for emergency use and was quickly manufactured by the state,” the source said, adding that the officials are asking the schools to use the disinfectant to clean their facilities as best they can.

Amid the education ministry’s determination to open all schools by June 3, even some areas that have schools considered to be in “severely bad condition” (including schools in Taetan County, South Hwanghae Province) are being told to open up on that date no matter what.

Meanwhile, local inminban (neighborhood watch-like organizations) and child-care centers in Pyongyang and other major cities throughout the country reportedly conducted a survey of parents about whether they would send their kids back to the centers. Eighty-two percent of the respondents said that they would not.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.