Mohammad Reza Zafarqandi, the government-appointed head of Iran's Medical Council (IMC), has blasted the country’s Ministry of Education for deciding to reopen all schools amidst the coronavirus outbreak.
Reprimanding the Ministry for its "sudden U-turn" over reopening schools across Iran, Zafarqandi said that the new decision has raised serious concerns.
"The 'surprising decision' to reopen schools would no doubt lead to an increased burden on the country's medical workers," the state-run Iran Students News Agency, ISNA, quoted Zafarqandi as saying in his letter.
"When an epidemic hit, schools are the first places that should be closed and the last to be reopened," Zafarqandi said.
Furthermore, Zafarqandi said that he hoped the Ministry's “sudden decision” had not been “politically motivated” or forced by issues other than education.
In a letter on Saturday to the Minister of Education, IMC President Mohsen Haji Mirzaei said that while Iranian provinces remain on "Red Alert," reopening schools runs against common sense.
A member of the Supreme Council of Education and former Minister of Education, Ali Asghar Fani, also rejected the announcement of the reopening of schools in Iran as “late,” warning that "schools cannot get ready for the reopening in such short notice.”
Several members of the Iranian Majlis parliament have also harshly criticized the reopening of schools amidst the coronavirus outbreak and threatened to impeach the Minister of Education.
Nevertheless, schools in Iran reopened for fifteen million students last Saturday after a seven-month closure despite concerns over the increased spread of the novel coronavirus in the country, Reuters reported.
"This year, we shoulder a heavier burden of responsibility toward our students," said President Hassan Rouhani, who oversaw the opening of schools in a video conference broadcast live on state television.
Education and health are equally important to society, he said, but added that "parents would not be forced to send their children back to school."
Meanwhile, on Saturday, local news outlets reported that the Twelver-Shi'ite seminaries also reopened on Saturday to about 50,000 students.