Thiruvananthapuram: Around 3.5 lakh children in Kerala commenced their education on Monday by joining the first grade in schools across the state as the academic year got underway.
Braving incessant rain, children, clad in new clothes and carrying colourful umbrellas, wended their way to schools where they were welcomed by teachers with flowers, sweets and gift kits as the day is celebrated as `entrance festival`.
Another 45 lakh children of second to plus-two classes resumed their studies as primary, secondary and higher secondary schools re-opened after summer vacation.
Greeting the children on the occasion, state Education Minister PK Abdurabb said, "Let the academic year be a period of joy and earnest pursuit of knowledge".
Inaugurating the state-level `praveshanolsavam` (entrance festival) at the Government Vocational Higher Secondary School at Meenchantha in Kozhikode, he said government was able to supply about 90 per cent of books this year before the schools reopened.
Kerala has more than 12,600 schools, of which over 4,000 are government-run.
Many schools in Kerala are finding it difficult to get required number of children to make them economically viable owing to the sharp fall in population growth, with some areas even registering negative growth.
According to the Economic Review of state Planning Board, there are about 4,614 `uneconomic schools` in Kerala, which have "insufficient strength of pupils."
However, the government has made it clear that schools would not close down for that reason and teachers rendered jobless despite the students-teacher ratio shrinking fast.
Earlier, police removed some students allegedly belonging to pro-CPI(M) SFI who raised slogans flaying commercialisation of education just as the minister was about the inaugurate the programme in Kozhikode.