As air quality worsened in Delhi and the National Capital Region, parents are anxious about whether the government will order schools to close and shift them online. Despite the thick layer of smog, schools say they are all prepared to deal with this annual problem and would therefore avoid closure.
Several people in Delhi-NCR, including children, have complained of cough. “When I came out this morning, I was coughing a lot and it was a little hard to breathe. But things got better when I stayed in my class for a while, as my teacher kept the doors and windows closed and our activities outdoors were cancelled,” said Nishant Tyagi, a 16-year-old student from Noida.
Schools use air purifiers, Indian gooseberries, masks
Many schools in the region have been using air purifiers for the past few years and this year have added masks to the precautionary measures.
Vishnu Karthik, principal of Heritage School in Gurugram, said parents were encouraged to send their wards to the school. “Our purifiers not only clean the air, but also pump fresh oxygen for the students. So the quality of the air the students breathe in our classrooms is much better than the air they will breathe at home,” he said. .
Shiv Nadar School in Noida has installed two air purifiers in each classroom and continuously monitors the air quality. Besides this, “children are being served with lunch and breakfast as it is said to help boost immunity, especially for the respiratory system,” a school spokesperson told indianexpress.com .
Awadhesh Kumar Jha, principal of Rohini’s SV Coed Vidyalaya School, said his school distributed Indian gooseberries (amla) to the 3,500 students of the Delhi government school. “Amla is said to build immunity, so I have been distributing it to my students for the past few years and this year too, my action plan will remain the same,” he said.
Since a government school cannot afford air purifiers, Jha has adopted natural ways to purify the air in the classroom. Every year he receives indoor plants for all the classrooms.
Schools have also started encouraging students to always wear masks. “We encourage students to wear masks and ensure that no pollution is created in the campus through dust or smoke,” said Shalini Nambiar, principal-principal of Seth Anandram Jaipuria School in Ghaziabad.
Some schools have suspended outdoor activities for children. “Be it morning prayers, playtime or other activities, we have stopped all outdoor activities,” said Sapna Charha, principal of Shalimar Bagh Modern Public School, New Delhi.
Sudha Acharya, head of the National Progress Schools’ Conference and principal of ITL Public School in Dwarka in Delhi, told indianexpress.com that N95 masks had been made mandatory for students and staff. “We offer masks to students or staff who forget or lose their masks, but we’ve encouraged everyone to get their masks on regularly,” he said. The school has also started putting neem diffusers in classrooms, which it believes act as good air purifiers.
Asked if the purifiers, diffusers or masks add to the school’s expenses, Acharya said the schools were willing to meet them for the sake of the health of their students. “Expenses have increased since the pandemic, but we cannot charge parents because it is our duty. In addition, many parents have not been able to even pay the full fees. So asking for an additional amount will not sit well with them,” he explained.
Hesitating to switch to an online class
Although some students and parents have complained that schools are continuing with face-to-face classes, authorities are hesitant to close schools once again.
“How many times will we close the schools? If we close the schools now, it will have a negative impact on the students as they have been between online and offline classes for more than two years. And this not only affects the students, it will also adversely affect all the support staff in the schools, such as bus drivers and day labourers,” said Ashok Agarwal, national head of the Parents’ Association of the india
Most parents, Sudha Acharya said, have asked schools not to switch to online classes. “We are following the situation closely and will take a call based on the situation we see on Monday. Parents have contacted us telling us that the air at home and at school is the same. Working parents will have a harder time if we stop offline classes. So for now, we stick to diffusers, masks and purifiers,” he said.
Acharya said the school authorities were planning to change the academic calendar. “This happens every November, but we can’t continue to confuse children like this. To avoid disruption to their calendar and studies, I am thinking of changing the holidays from December to November from next year,” he said.