Published: 24th November 2021
Education is the first victim of pollution in Delhi: Parents write to LG seeking reopening of schools
Compulsory masking will protect students from both COVID-19, and air pollution, believe parents of children studying in Delhi schools
Parents in Delhi are concerned about the disruption being caused to their wards' education. They have written to the Lieutenant Governor, Anil Bajaj, demanding that schools be reopened. Earlier this week, the Delhi government had extended the closure of schools for an "indefinite" period of time given the severity of pollution in the national capital.
In the letter, about 140 parents refer to the fact that schools were shut for over 20 months thanks to the pandemic and now have been shut again due to the pollution levels, after less than a fortnight of functioning. They have demanded that "children and their education be given equal attention, in fact, greater, priority", given the fact that a few other activities have been given the green light as conditions improved in the last few days.
"India has the distinction of implementing one of the world's longest school closures. After 20 months of closure, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority authorised the reopening of schools for all classes in Delhi at 50% capacity, effective November 1. This coincided with the annual pollution cycle. Unfortunately, our children's education was the first victim of the pollution response and school closures were announced on November 13 for one week. This has now been extended until further orders. While recognising the enormity of the pollution crisis and the risk it poses to our children's health, we strongly urge the Delhi government to reconsider this decision and reopen schools," the letter said.
Parents also do not seem to see much value in closing schools to improve the air quality, since permission to operate schools was just given just at 50% capacity. The parents claim that this reduced vehicles on the road anyway, providing no real public health benefits of closing schools. They maintained that compulsory masking will protect the students from the worst of the pollution, maintaining that they have suffered significantly from one of the longest pandemic-induced school closures in the world.
"Primary schools have now been closed for almost 21 months. There is a large body of evidence that highlights the importance of early years in the formation of human capital. The long-term closure of primary schools is having a significant detrimental impact on the learning of our young children. It is, thus, imperative that we must prioritise the opening of primary schools. "Keeping in mind these realities, we urge that schools be allowed to open. The hybrid model at 5% capacity will ensure parental choice and address the public health concern of vehicular pollution," the letter said.