In Iran these days, one cannot talk about coronavirus without talking about schools. Following a rocky re-entry to the new academic year — with mounting concerns about commutes to school, non-compliance with health protocols and social distancing — a group of parliamentarians have begun taking measures to impeach the education minister.
On September 7, Vali Esmaili, the vice chairman of the parliament Social Affairs Committee, tweeted that the impeachment process to oust Mohsen Haji-Mirzaee had begun. “To protect the lives of this nation’s children, this revolutionary parliament does not treat anybody with kid gloves,” he said.
The moves sparked speculation that senior officials are again trying to place the blame on individuals or the public, rather than the government taking responsibility for the crisis,.
There has been significant confusion about whether it is mandatory to send children back to the classroom, or whether online alternatives are sufficient. On social media, Iranians shared reports that children were required to go back to school, but on September 7, the education minister backtracked from previous statements and denied that student attendance in classrooms was mandatory. “We said from the beginning that our priority is in-person classes and that we believe that classroom education is preferable, but it was reported that some state and private schools have made attending classes in person mandatory,” he said. “Our duty is to provide educational services to all students. No student should be denied an education.”
Minister Haji-Mirzaee also claimed that the decision to reopen schools was taken by the National Coronavirus Taskforce. “It was not a decision made by the Ministry of Education,” he said. “The decision to start the new school year on September 5 and the preference for in-person classes was made by the National Coronavirus Taskforce and we were required to comply with it.”
Some parents have chosen to school their children at home, but many have trusted the promises of the education ministry to keep students safe, and to ensure their children will not fall behind in their education.
It is not, however, just the parents of schoolchildren who are worried. University courses are also due to start, and one of the biggest challenges ahead is how to accommodate students in dormitories. It is also not clear how the classes will be conducted. There have been reports that all classes will be held online but, as with many statements over the last few weeks, there is confusion about the authority of these comments.
Ahmad Motamedi, the president of Tehran’s Amir Kabir University of Technology, said in the coming semester, dormitory rooms in his university will be single-occupancy unless the room is very big, in which case two students can occupy the space. With this plan in place, the dormitory can house 1,200 students if all rooms are single-occupancy and between 1,500 and 1,600 students if some rooms are able to host two students.
Motamedi also reported that the tuition for students required to pay had increased by 20 percent, although “with the current rate of inflation it should have been increased by 50 percent.”
The health ministry announced that in the last 10 days, from August 29 to September 7, on average 79 people have been infected with coronavirus each day and between four and five Covid-19 patients have died.
According to the Zanjan University of Medical Sciences news portal, coronavirus cases and fatalities have been on a downward trend in the last week across the country, but it predicted a small peak in the coming week.
On September 7, the total coronavirus death toll in Zanjan province reached 477 and, according to the latest reports, 296 Covid-19 patients are currently hospitalized across the province. Since the coronavirus outbreak, a total of 10,192 Covid-19 patients have been hospitalized in Zanjan.
With the death of four coronavirus patients in the last 24 hours, the total coronavirus death toll in Alborz province has reached 979, reported Mohammad Fathi, president of Alborz University of Medical Sciences. In the last 24 hours, 61 patients with coronavirus symptoms had been hospitalized in the province, he said, bringing the total number of hospitalizations in Alborz since the coronavirus outbreak to 15,841, of whom 15,402 tested positive for Covid-19.
In her daily briefing for September 7, the health ministry spokeswoman Dr. Sima Sadat Lari said that currently 13 provinces are in a red state of alert and 15 provinces are in an orange state.
- Red: Tehran, Mazandaran, Gilan, Qom, Isfahan, Razavi Khorasan, East Azerbaijan, Kerman, North Khorasan, Semnan, Yazd, Zanjan and Qazvin
- Orange: West Azerbaijan, Alborz, Fars, Lorestan, Hormozgan, Ardebil, Bushehr, Kermanshah, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad, South Khorasan, Markazi, Ilam, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Golestan and Khuzestan
Dr. Lari also announced the official coronavirus statistics for the past 24 hours:
- New confirmed coronavirus cases: 2,152
- Total cases since the outbreak: 338,810
- New hospitalizations: 1,116
- Total Covid-19 patients in ICUs: 3,733
- Total coronavirus tests conducted in Iran: 3,406,055
- Total recovered from coronavirus or able to leave the hospital: 335,572
- New fatalities: 117
- Total death toll since the outbreak: 22,410
This is part of IranWire's coronavirus chronology. Read the full chronology