North Korea orders universities nationwide to prevent students from traveling during summer vacation

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Students walking to class at Kim Il Sung University (Kim Il Sung University website)

As part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, North Korean authorities recently ordered universities across the country to prevent students living in dormitories from traveling during summer vacation.

According to a source from South Pyongan Province on Monday, the order was recently issued by the State Emergency Anti-Epidemic Command along with the country’s Ministry of Education. He stressed that universities should ensure that their students participate in on-campus activities rather than allowing them to return home or travel to other places during summer vacations.

The order was sent ahead of the summer vacation out of concern that students might get infected with the coronavirus or even spread it while traveling home or elsewhere, the source said.

In particular, the order directed universities to prevent students living in dormitories from returning to their hometowns during summer vacation. He pointed out that with the rice planting season over, universities should gather students in their dormitories so that they can more easily follow instructions from their schools.

Interestingly, the authorities have presented a plan for students in dormitories to continue their studies during the summer holidays through distance learning programs or course materials on USB.

The order also called on universities to do everything possible to prevent community infections from occurring. Specifically, schools have been instructed to establish strict emergency quarantine systems on their campuses and to separate students who live in dormitories from students who commute to school from home.

University officials, for their part, complain that the order does not reflect reality and makes no sense. According to them, while the ordinance directs schools to confine students to their dormitories to study during the summer, students still have to go out and buy their own food as schools have no money to provide it.

University officials complain that it’s not easy to keep dorms running smoothly on a day-to-day basis – like keeping drinking water clean and disinfecting showers, bathrooms and other shared facilities. They are also worried that their schools will have to take responsibility for quarantining students in dormitories if any of them come down with COVID-19.

“The dorm students and their families are upset after hearing about the order,” the source said. “The government is not taking active steps to deal with the [current] outbreak, so people are concerned that if an outbreak were to occur while students are in groups, universities might not be able to respond properly.

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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