The Rodong Sinmun published a photo on Apr. 2, 2022, of school children at their first day of school on Apr. 1. (Rodong Sinmun-News1)

A disease of unknown origin is spreading in Yanggang Province, forcing primary schools to cancel classes and send students on vacation, Daily NK has learned.

A source in the province told Daily NK on Mar. 29 that an illness had appeared in a number of counties, including Paegam County, with children complaining of fever and bloodshot eyes. As the disease spread to other cities and counties, students were ordered to take a temporary vacation from their classes, which were suspended for ten days from Mar. 11 to 21.

When the transmission of the fever did not abate, the authorities extended the temporary vacation until Mar. 29.

The fever claimed the lives of children in rural parts of Yanggang Province, prompting provincial authorities to inform the public that a fever was being transmitted and that its symptoms were particularly severe in children. The authorities stressed that parents should keep a close eye on their children and make sure they stay indoors.

“The deaths occurred in children whose immune systems had been destroyed by not getting enough to eat in recent years. Despite the severe conditions, the only thing [the government] has done so far is to give students a temporary vacation,” the source said.

“Children like to play outside much more than they like to study, and after two weeks indoors, their parents are worn out by children begging to be let out. The parents can’t wait for the fever to break.”

Students in North Korean elementary schools typically have a month and a half of winter vacation, from early January to mid-February. They then use the remaining time before the new school year begins on Apr. 1 to catch up on what they missed and review what they have learned.

The last days of March, right before the new school year begins, are usually spent cleaning up the school and classrooms. But since students in Yanggang Province are currently on vacation due to the disease, their parents have been enlisted to clean up the school in their place.

“Schools paint the walls and floors and lay down magnesia powder at the end of March every year, with the work divided between students and parents in primary schools. But with students out of school due to fever, this year parents are left to do all the work,” the source said.

“While students are supposed to show up for the back-to-school rehearsal on Mar. 30, there’s also a chance that their vacation will be extended again. We’ll have to see what happens,” the source explained.

The temporary vacation only applies to the province’s elementary schools. Students in the province’s middle and high schools continued to attend classes as usual and were mobilized to clean up their schools and classrooms on Mar. 27, he added.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

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