Vân Nguyễn, with additional reporting from Minh Phương & Nhật Hồng
HÀ NỘI — Vũ Minh Trí, an 8th grader in Hà Nội, was reunited with his classmates for the first time after nine months on Tuesday.
“I feel very happy and excited because it has been a long time since I went to school. I feel extremely excited,” he said.
Lê Lợi Secondary School, where Trí joins some other 30 students for the first class of the year, is nestled on a corner of Nguyễn Thiện Thuật Street in downtown Hà Nội.
Just a step away from the school is a bustling wet market selling all kinds of stuff, from local sausages to flowers and votive paper. Life outside has returned to normal for a while but for the school, it is only now reopening.
Trí was among hundreds of thousands of students in Hà Nội who returned to school in February.
Both teachers and students won’t have to put up with the cumbersome process of logging in for a class or worry about the broadband connection or find ways to handle the boredom and fatigue induced by prolonged hours of exposure to the screen.
They can now enjoy simple things they had missed out due to the months-long shutdown and online learning – walking with friends on the school campus or playing rock paper scissors during their break.
“Learning online, we mainly interacted with each other through the screen, so it was harder for us to absorb knowledge than learning in person.”
“When we go to school and meet our teachers, they can guide us with more dedication,” he said.
Hà Nội is set to reopen all schools in February after the longest pandemic-prompted shutdown.
Educators say the reopening is “imperative” despite the complicated and unpredictable development of the pandemic as the closure has taken a toll on students’ development.
Ngô Thị Kiều Linh, principal of Lê Lợi Secondary School, said despite efforts at remote education, there are many challenges posed for students when using this mode of learning.
“The whole education sector has exerted great efforts to deliver online teaching for students. However, there are several limitations when students are stuck at home studying online.
“There are many practical and soft skills that one struggles to acquire through online learning without any real contact with others.
“If online learning persists, it will cause more harm than good for the youth, the future generation of the country,” she said.
“It is very imperative to allow students to return to school. They need to have real contact and exchange with others.
“Besides knowledge, they also need to learn certain skills, which can only be acquired through real contact and exchange with teachers, friends and society. By doing, so they become more mature,” the principal said.
Vaccination has been a core component in schools’ drive to get their students back.
Among more than 182.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Việt Nam, more than 16.3 million doses have been given to children aged 12-17 years, of which nearly 8 million have been fully vaccinated.
The Government has also approved the purchase of nearly 22 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for children from five to under 12 years old.
Linh said: “Hà Nội is currently at the peak of the pandemic with a high number of daily cases, however children are not at high risk.”
“Children don’t tend to get sick from COVID-19, they have a strong immune system and more importantly, almost all of our students in grades seven, eight and nine have been fully vaccinated,” she said.
Only four haven’t had their second dose of vaccine, she said.
For teachers like Vũ Thị Ngọc Yến, it is a relief to finally get back to school.
She said could barely sleep the night before the reopening day.
“I was excited and nervous because we haven’t seen our students for months. Not just happy. I am very happy to be back to school, see all my students and talk to them,” she said.
She said her school has made very careful preparations before welcoming the students back.
“Before the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday, we had a meeting with all teachers and offered training for them as well as informed students before the school reopens.”
“It is one of the advantages for us that today students of grades 7, 8 and 9 are back to school. They are grown-ups so they are very well aware of and cautious with the pandemic measures,” she said.
“We also have different times of reopening for each grade to avoid too many students arriving at the same time.” — VNS