Back to School in Iran: How to Deal with a Bad Summer
TIME / Shervin Malekzadeh
07-Sep-2009 (one comment)

The first day of class in Iran comes with its own traditions, designed to help students ease into the academic year. First-graders have it the best. The children are designated as shokoofeh (literally, blossoms), and the teachers give each child a stalk of a fragrant flower. The principal raises a microphone and calls all of the kids into rows, regimented by grades. Then, at exactly the same time across the country, an official strikes a metal plate with a small hammer, the aural signal for the year to begin. The kids pass under a Koran and into their new classrooms, redolent with the smoky swirl of burning esfand, a fragrant herb for warding off bad spirits.

There is comfort in these rituals, in knowing what the first day will bring. But this year will be different, the opening-day rituals troubled by the events of the past summer. This was not a good summer. For many, school will be the first time to confront in a formal social setting what has happened to the country since the controversial presidential election in June. As the principal of a Tehran high school put it to me in his own understated way, "We will surely have problems."

"What will I tell the kids when they come back?" he asks. His school, known for its piety and commitment to the Islamic Revolution, lost a parent to errant gunfire during one of the protest marches, a mother who had gone out in search of her son. Another student was struck in the stomach and... >>>

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Thank you for

by yolanda on

Thank you for recommending this very interesting Time article! The 1st day of school has neat tradition, the hammer. It is nice to know.