North Korean schools introduce new type of vacation for students

Elementary school students in Pyonygyag. Image: Ryugyong

While the North Korean vacation system has generally been divided into summer and winter vacations, “wild greens vacation” and “acorn vacations,” where students are given quotas to pick wild greens and acorns, have now been added to the school calendar.

North Korean middle and high schools are announcing “firewood vacations” in preparation for the winter as well, requiring students to collect wood to burn for heat and cooking.

The vacations are widely considered to be a significant burden on students. Students must head to the mountains to complete their given tasks and some have to skip class to make their quotas.

“Schools don’t have enough funds to operate, so they go on vacation for 10 days or so and order students to collect wild greens, acorns and animal skins,” said a South Pyongan Province-based source. “The students call these periods ‘wild greens vacations’ or ‘acorn vacations’.”

Students are required to collect 1 kg of wild greens, 5 kg of acorns, and 3 rabbit skins. They also have to collect 5 kg of wood for heating. Some schools even require students to contribute a pair of gloves for use at construction sites.

If students cannot meet the quotas for wood, they must provide the school with US $2 instead.

“Poor students who can’t meet the quotas get in trouble with the teachers, so they end up avoiding school,” said a source in North Pyongan Province.

“The students end up placing more emphasis on earning money instead of study and go to the markets to work.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has handed down orders to change the education system and improve school facilities to ensure that students receive broad education. However, schools outside of the major cities have little money to operate on, so the students end up paying to keep the schools open.