Schools in Sri Lanka re-opened on Monday amid tight security, but many anxious parents kept their children away from school over fears of more attacks by militants.
The re-opening of the school is coming after a deadly bomb blasts that rocked the capital on Easter Sunday, killing more than 200 persons.
Soldiers conducted a security sweep of schools on Sunday after state institutions were asked to re-open. Private schools, including Catholic institutions, remained closed.
Mid-to-upper stream classes resumed on Monday, to be followed by lower grades at a later day.
Despite the tight security and military patrols, most classrooms were near empty on Monday.
“I have decided not to send my son to school until the country returns to normal,” said Sujeeva Dissanayake, whose son goes to the state-run Asoka College in Colombo.
She and other parents were at the school to help provide security.
“Until we are certain about the security situation outside we will not send the child to school,” Dissanayake said.
At Royal College, an elite state school in Colombo, the parking area usually filled with school vans on a normal day was practically empty.
According to a school official, only about 5 percent of its 6000 students were back in classes.
At a Hindu school in Batticaloa on the east coast, site of one of the church bombings, parents helped to search schoolbags at the entrance gate. Once inside, pupils sat in desks away from road-side windows.
“Parents are not confident that safety has returned to normal,” said T. Yasodharan, principal of Sivananda College where only 30 percent of its students showed up on Monday.
Security forces are on high alert after intelligence reports indicated militants could strike before the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which is due to begin later on Monday.
Muslim schools will be closed for the holidays.
In Negombo, where 102 people attending Easter Sunday service were killed in the deadliest bomb attack, authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed after clashes between two groups of civilians.
Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Ranjith, who has criticized the government’s handling of security around key establishments, has asked for Catholic schools in the Western Province, which includes Colombo and its suburbs, to be closed this week.
Sri Lanka authorities have blamed the Easter Sunday attacks, which also killed 42 foreign nationals, on two little-known local Islamist groups, the National Tawheed Jamaath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim (JMI).
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombings.