Though the Supreme Court has decided to take the matter on Delhi pollution in its own hands, the crisis looms for citizens and children who are still having problems in breathing, as the city has gone over a week into fighting air pollution. This is specially affecting kids who are missing schools at a time when a 2nd term Unit Tests are approaching them.
Earlier, the Delhi government had decided to shut all schools till November 5 after a Supreme Court mandated panel declared a public health emergency in the Delhi-NCR region. Though the situation improved on last week when the fog lifted in areas of Sarita Vihar, Jangpura and Faridabad. However, the situation flipped back again when a majority of areas woke up to a foggy morning.
In areas near New Delhi, students were seen going to school wearing masks to get protection from air pollution. When situation is already that grim, it is all the more important that we protect our children from it. And therefore, what role does the schools play in it, becomes pivotal. Hence, we spoke to a couple of schools to understand what are they doing to take care of the students.
New Friends Colony-based Ardee School that was ranked #2 international school in Delhi by Education World, is fighting pollution for a past few years and has taken steps to ensure that the students are aware about the problem and are protected against it. This year the school has formed a special pollution task force to protect children against pollution. The school has introduced a red/yellow flag-based visual reminder for students and staff to prevent them from high level of pollution. Parents and students are now being reminded to wear masks on Yellow and Red flag days. The school has introduced air purifiers in classes and online indoor air quality monitors on various floors that provides real time data on PM 2.5/ PM10 etc.
At last, the parents are extremely satisfied with the arrangements made by Ardee to take care children against pollution in the school campus. This is evident from the fact that we do not have any absenteeism during the days when the city is under severe threat from pollution. They trust the school, that the students will not be allowed outdoors and the school system to combat air pollution will function. Parents are extremely satisfied that on government closure of schools the students are attending online classes while staying at home.
Similarly, Mr Joginder Mann of Mann school, Delhi, says, “He cannot complaint much about pollution since, Mann school is a little outside of Delhi limits. We have 20-acre campus which is the greenest campus that has 5-6 mini forests developed by us. Here we have more than 600 fruit-bearing trees. So, as compared to the city, we are a shade better here. Apart from that, we have allotted masks if anyone requires them. And if the children go to the city side and they require that then we allot them the mask. For emergency, of course there are oxygen cylinders are there. For years, we don’t allow firecrackers during Diwali and instead we celebrate by lighting diyas. We have totally banned plastic in our campus and only use cloth-bags instead. And the parents seem satisfied with whatever precautions we are taking in order to protect them against pollution.
Meanwhile parents have a difference of opinion on the issue of pollution and what the schools are doing about it. We spoke to Pinky Joshi, a parent of a 2nd grader at Amity International School at Noida sector 44, who said, “In order to avoid exposing school children to pollution, the school has activated water sprinkles to settle particulate matter. Students with respiratory problems have been advised to carry their inhalers with them. All outdoor activities have been suspended until the situation improves. Fogging is being done after school hours to prevent breeding of mosquitoes which cause malaria and dengue. The parents are advised not to send children for any outdoor activities as heavy breathing draws pollution deeper into the lungs. It is suggested that effective masks which are easily available be used by students.”
But another parent of a ward from different school in Delhi, doesn’t share the same view. On the condition of anonymity, she tells us that the school is not doing enough to protect children from pollution. According to her, “the children are not sensitized about pollution or plastic waste. The school has no school policy against plastic waste and most of the food packets and plastic waste is in fact littered by kids. The children have not been made aware about these little things. Plantation-wise also, the school lacks vegetation.”
Heritage Xpereintial Learning School been monitoring the AQI levels both inside the school and outside regularly. Some of the measures that the school has taken to mitigate this issue includes circulating fresh treated air in the classrooms and maintaining healthy CO2 levels. Children with special needs and students with medical/ respiratory issues are allowed to be on excused leave. Furthermore, parents are periodically informed about the cancelation of team practices in the morning or the afternoon sports.
Manoj JoshiNews, States