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Teachers in Bosnian village build open-air classroom to protect children from COVID-19

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KACUNI, Bosnia (Reuters) - Teachers at an elementary school in the village of Kacuni in central Bosnia have used their summer holiday to build an open-air classroom outside their school to the joy of their students and local community.

“Our model offers a breath of fresh air both for teachers and students. It allows us to breathe, speak and work freely. I am so proud of it,” said Mirza Begovic, a language teacher at the Kacuni school, which has 1,000 students.

The idea of an open-air classroom had been in teachers’ minds for a while, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated their project - which began with minimum funds but quickly attracted help and donations. The mayor gave construction material.

The classroom was completed within a month, in time to welcome children returning to school after months of online learning. It will be used as long as the weather allows.

Teachers have assembled dozens of red wooden benches in an amphitheatre formation that can also host school plays, and have planted trees. A large blackboard hangs from a brick wall at the front.

The school, like others in the country, has split classes into smaller groups so pupils can keep a safe distance from each other. Some attend classes and others learn at home in rotation to prevent overcrowding.

Mask wearing is obligatory when arriving and leaving school, but not during lessons if distancing is observed.

“I am so thrilled to be back at school and see my classmates at last, and to have this new summer classroom,” said 14-year-old Anel Hodzic.

Bosnia has registered 21,961 cases of COVID-19 and 669 deaths.

Reporting by Dado Ruvic, Writing by Maja Zuvela, Editing by Alexandra Hudson