Mixed feelings: Excited, nervous, thousands of students resume classes

By Staff reporters   March 2, 2020 | 04:32 pm PT
Mixed feelings: Excited, nervous, thousands of students resume classes
Students of Hanoi University of Technology wear face masks in class as they go back to school after more than a month, March 2, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.
Many high school and college students returned to school Monday in different localities across Vietnam, glad to be back, but carrying Covid-19 fears.

His first reaction on hearing that schools would reopen after a prolonged break was worry.

Nguyen Khac Dung, a 12th grader at iSchool in the beach town of Nha Trang, felt a little less worried after reaching school, having his temperature checked and receiving a free face mask.

The central province of Khanh Hoa, which was declared free of the novel coronavirus on February 26, more than five weeks after its first and only infection was confirmed, has also been receiving many foreign tourists despite complicated developments of the outbreak that has spread to 76 countries and territories and killed more than 3,000.

At Dung's school, boards instruct people on preventive measures, hand washing sinks have been equipped with soap and hand sanitizers.

"After returning to school, meeting my friends and teachers, I'm glad. Staying at home for a long time had made me sad and put me under a lot of pressure, as I have to prepare many things for the upcoming national high school exam," Dung said.

A student of iSchool in Nha Trang has his body temperature checked when he comes back to class on March 2, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Ngoc.

A student of iSchool in Nha Trang has his body temperature checked as he returns to class on March 2, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Ngoc.

High school seniors in 59 provinces and cities across the country have officially resumed classes after a prolonged break of more than a month, owing to fears over the spread of the coronavirus.

The country’s two largest metropolises Hanoi and HCMC, Tien Giang Province in the south and Thai Binh Province in the north are the only four localities in the country to have students at all levels stay away from classes by another week or two.

High school students, especially 12th graders, have greater pressure to keep up with their study plans as they will have a high school graduation exam this summer. The exam was held in June in previous years but has been rescheduled for July this year.

National high school exams are seen as a seminal event in the country, with success or failure having far-reaching impacts. The exams not only award a high-school certificate, but also decide admissions to universities and colleges.

Pham Huu Binh, principal of iSchool, said the school has 39 classrooms and functional rooms, all of which have been sprayed with disinfectant for the past several days in preparation to welcome 571 students back.

All students also have their temperature checked before entering their classrooms.

The parents of three students showing signs of fever were notified and requested to take them home.

However, some parents still don’t feel it’s safe for their children to resume classes.

Hoang Thi Ly, deputy director of Khanh Hoa Department of Education and Training, said the province has 22,440 high school students who are supposed to return to their classes. Of these, 884 students are still absent, and schools are trying to contact students and their parents to find out why.

In Dong Nai, which neighbors Saigon, more than 1,700 high school students returned to the Tran Bien High School in Bien Hoa Town. Most of them wore face masks and limited talking to each other.

Tran Phuong Chi expressed pleasure at meeting her friends after a long break that began as a Lunar New Year holiday in late January.

"Fighting the epidemic is still a top priority, but I think high school students know how to protect themselves," she said.

In order to limit the crowds, the school has canceled the usual flag-raising ceremony every Monday.

In the central city of Da Nang, all high schools had medical staff check students' body temperatures, and instruct them on safety measures including how to wash their hands properly.

Nguyen Quang Hung, principal of the Phan Chau Trinh High School, said the school has arranged a special room to isolate students showing symptoms of cough and fever.

Mai Tan Linh, deputy director of the city's education department, said top officials had deliberated the issue very carefully before reaching a decision to let students go back to school despite the Covid-19 outbreak becoming more "complicated."

"High school students are under a lot of pressure to catch up with study plans that have been interrupted by the long break," Linh said.

Eagerly awaited event

After a month and a half at home, Le Thi Mai of Thanh Hoa, a province that also reported one infection and is awaiting its epidemic-free declaration, said she had been waiting every day for the announcement that would allow her to go to Hanoi and resume classes.

"I wanted to come back to school right after the Lunar New Year holiday, but the school kept extending the holiday because of the epidemic. This morning, I feel a little sleepy, because I have been used to staying up late for the past month," Mai said, speaking through her face mask.

Many universities have reopened their doors to welcome thousands of students back.

At 7:30 a.m., the campus of Hanoi University of Technology was awash with the red color of uniforms and different face mask colors.

Entering the school via its gate on Tran Dai Nghia Street with a black face mask, Hoang Van Trung, a third-year student majoring in electronics and telecommunications, washed his hands with antibacterial water and checked his body temperature with a hand-held device prepared by the school.

Seeing the device for the first time, Trung sought help from the security guards on how to use it. His body temperature was a safe 36.5 degrees Celcius.

"During the school break, I only read documents sent by teachers. My friends haven’t returned to Hanoi yet, but I live here. I am still afraid to go to crowded places. I just hung around at home most of the time.

"I am very happy to be back at school, but also worried about the coronavirus situation getting complicated as large numbers of people from provinces and cities return to school," Trung said.

Ngoc Huong, an engineering student, said: "During the break time, I went to school once a fortnight ago to borrow books. It was empty, with very few staff members, the atmosphere was very boring, very different from today."

Huong felt more secure on seeing that the school was well prepared with many panels and posters showing how to prevent an infection. Many checkpoints were manned by volunteers to remind and guide students on washing their hands properly and checking their body temperature before going to class."

"Even at home I do not protect myself as carefully as this," she said.

At both gates of the Academy of Journalism and Communication on Xuan Thuy and Nguyen Phong Sac Streets, students queued up in long lines on Monday to have their body temperatures checked.

Nearly 40,000 students of Vietnam National University-Hanoi also returned to school Monday. The three dormitories of the school opened Sunday with everyone having to undergo health checks.

While many college goers have resumed their study, younger students in Hanoi are being allowed to stay home for another week as Hanoi is deemed to be at some risk of Covid-19 infections with many people from South Korea, the worst-hit country by Covid-19 epidemic outside mainland China, arriving over the past days.

Meanwhile, HCMC has decided to keep 12th grade students away from school for another week at least and younger students for another fortnight.

While Vietnam has recorded no new infections for more than two weeks and the last of its 16 infection cases was discharged from hospital on February 26, the global death toll has topped 3,100.

Most of the deaths have happened in China, the epicenter of the outbreak, followed by 66 in Iran, 52 in Italy and 28 in South Korea, and six each in Japan and the U.S.

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