A group of 140 parents in the national capital has written to Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal seeking his intervention for reopening of schools that were closed due to deteriorating air quality.
In the letter, the parents have said that schools were already closed for a longer period due to COVID-19 and while construction and other activities have been allowed keeping in mind weather-related changes that have resulted in minor improvements in AQI, “children and their education be given equal attention, in fact greater, priority”.
“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 per cent 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.
The parents’ group noted that since schools are authorised to operate at 50 per cent capacity in hybrid mode, the extent of potential transport on the roads has been reduced, thus reducing any public health benefits of closing schools.
“Further, hybrid nature of schooling offers parents with alternative modes of protection to make a choice about sending their children to schools. Majority of schoolgoing children do not have access to methods of protection against air pollution such as air purifiers,” it said.
Consequently, school closure presents no significant health benefits to most school goingchildren in Delhi, most of whom have suffered significantly from the one of the longest pandemic-induced school closures in the world, it said.
Masks are mandatory in schools to contain COVID-19 spread and masking will reduce exposure to air pollution, parents asserted.
“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 opening of primary schools.
“Keeping in mind these realities, we urge that schools be allowed to open. The hybrid model at 5 per cent capacity will ensure parental choice and address the public health concern of vehicular pollution,” it said.
The Directorate of Education (DoE) announced on Sunday that schools in Delhi will remain closed for physical classes till further orders, while online classes and board exams will continue.
The Delhi government had on November 13 announced closure of schools and other educational institutions in view of the deteriorating air quality in Delhi. Schools had reopened for all classes from November 1, after nearly 19 months of closure due to COVID-19.