Most school across Kerala reopened on Wednesday after a 10-day Onam break which coincided with the worst floods in a century that ravaged the state, turning many schools into refugee centres.
Hundreds of school students, many of whom were languishing in relief camps until the other day, returned to their classes for an emotional reunion with fellow students and teachers –and in some cases to damaged school buildings.
Since August 9, Kerala witnessed unprecedented floods that left 1.4 million in over 3,000 relief camps, most of which were schools.
Education Minister C. Raveendranath, a former college professor, told the media on Wednesday that the floods had affected 650 schools. Barring 211, all others had reopened.
"Today there will be no classes. Instead it will be more of an emotional counselling as a good number of these young minds have suffered on account of the rains and floods," the Minister said.
"When I visited many relief camps in the past week, several students came up to me asking if they will be able to return to schools."
Many schools in Kuttanadu area in Alappuzha district remained closed as a massive cleaning operation was on.
However in Idukki, one of the worst affected places, all the 458 schools reopened.
"One school functioned from a nearby church hall. It was only last evening that many of the schools was cleaned up," said an education department official.
Likewise, Malappuram and Kozhikode also saw schools opening.
"In Kozhikode, there were relief camps in 160 schools and all of them are functioning," said an official.
In every district, authorities have started holding counselling sessions for volunteers who will in turn give emotional support to the students.
At Chalakkudy in Thrissur, even after the entire school was cleaned up by volunteers, the students engaged in another round of cleaning on Wednesday.
"I have lost everything and this uniform I am wearing was given to me on Tuesday by authorities. All my books and certificates were washed away," complained a Class 9 student.
At a primary school in Chengannur, the headmistress said the school was still under water. "All the students have lost their text books."
In Wayanad and Kannur too, schools began functioning again but attendances was thin in some.
"The road leading to the school has been damaged. So most students had to travel an extra four kilometres to reach the school," said the anguished parent of a student in Wayanad.>