KUALA KRAI, Kelantan (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The pupils trudged along muddy roads to start the first day of school but with no books, tables and chairs, running water and power, lessons are still a long way off.
In most schools, the floors of classrooms and halls were washed but the ceilings and walls still had stains left by the muddy floodwaters which ravaged the state.
Despite the challenges, the spirit among teachers, pupils and their parents appeared to be strong, based on the high attendance on Sunday.
The new school session in Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu and Johor started on Sunday and schools in the other states start on Monday.
Many of the students came in their home clothes and without schoolbags or proper shoes, but were excited to be in school. Younger children were carried by their parents to school so that they would not dirty their feet.
At SK Manek Urai which has 400 pupils, headmaster Yusof Ismail and his entire team of 41 teachers were present except for one who was bedridden after contracting an infection.
"It is encouraging to see all teachers and administration staff here to support the school.
"They understand the hardship and showed admirable team spirit at this difficult time," he said, adding that everyone had put their jobs above personal needs.
Yusof said he started the day by addressing students in an assembly at 8am followed by a safety briefing.
"I advised the students to avoid running along corridors and staircases and asked them to alert us immediately if anything seemed unsafe," he said.
The day went on with pupils and teachers helping to move usable tables and chairs to the classrooms.
"They can carry out a manual registration of students as we have no access to the students' database for now," he said.
Yusof said when the pupils were settled in the classrooms, they were presented with aid given by volunteers and NGOs.
"This morning we received some aid in the form of school bags and school uniforms from several NGOs from Kuala Lumpur and we distributed them to the children," he said.
Yusof, whose double-storey house in Tanah Merah was also submerged by floodwaters, said the school's immediate need was for new plastic tables and chairs to replace the damaged furniture.
"We are using our first-aid treatment room as a canteen and the canteen operator is serving packed food.
"There is no water or electricity so it is inconvenient and unsafe to do any cooking in the school," he said, adding that it might take at least two months before any semblance of normalcy could return.
A teacher of SMK Kuala Krai said her school was still in the midst of cleaning up.
"We are just observing the situation now because many of the students have no books or uniforms and we also do not have proper facilities for them," she said.
Teachers told the 200 students that those from the lower secondary classes would be given another week off, with classes set to resume on Jan 18.
Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said six schools in Kelantan could not start the new school session as they were still affected by last month's floods.
He said the status of the six schools would be reviewed daily.
"These schools will open as soon as possible but it will depend on the state of cleaning-up process," he said after handing school uniforms to students of SMK Kampung Laut.
He said the ministry also expected tables and chairs to be sent to the affected schools within a week and textbooks within this month.