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School closures because of air pollution ‘misplaced, achieve nothing’: Delhi child rights body

DCPCR chief Anurag Kundu has written to Commission for Air Quality Management, saying the loss of 600 days due to Covid and pollution could have long-term implications.

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New Delhi: The closing of schools on account of poor air quality is an “irrelevant” and “misplaced” step that does not achieve the goal of protecting children, the chairman of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), Anurag Kundu, has said in a letter to the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM).

According to Kundu, school closures due to Covid and pollution, amounting to about 600 days, have adversely impacted children’s education. This could also, in the long term, have implications for the economy and “human development growth”, Kundu wrote.

The letter, addressed to M.M. Kutty, chairman of the air quality commission, also referred to a study by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago which found that indoor pollution in Delhi is also extremely high and much above WHO limits. This, wrote Kundu, outlined that shutting schools was a “misplaced” measure and erroneously seemed to assume that most families own air purifiers.

“Since the families don’t own air purifiers, the school closures policy on account of air pollution achieves nothing,” Kundu said.

He also tweeted that the school closure policy causes “learning loss” and curbs the “social and emotional growth of children”, and is “without evidence or rationale”.

 

In the letter, Kundu mentioned that hundreds of parents had written to the child rights commission advocating for immediate reopening of schools. The DCPCR had previously written to Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Anil Baijal on 11 October, raising similar concerns.

ThePrint approached Arvind Kumar Nautiyal, CAQM member secretary and spokesperson, through phone calls to his office, but did not get a response till the time this report was published.


Also Read: School lockdowns in India have robbed a generation of upward mobility


Delhi govt ‘should control pollution, not stop children’s education’

Schools in Delhi-NCR were shut from 13 to 28 November after the Directorate of Education ordered them to do so on account of high levels of air pollution. Schools reopened on 29 November but were instructed to shut again on 2 December, after the Supreme Court reprimanded the Delhi government for reopening despite the high levels of air pollution.

Over 500 parents had reached out to the DCPCR, requesting for the reopening of schools because of the negative impact on children of repeated school closures.

Mamata Devi, a 36-year-old mother of three children, told ThePrint that the latest closure came as a blow. “In poor households, we cannot help our children study online, which is why reopening of schools was a relief. Now they have shut schools again. If they really want to change something, they should control the pollution! The authorities do not understand the learning loss that students are facing,” she said.

Last week, the CAQM submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying that of the four states in the National Capital Region — Delhi, UP, Haryana, and Rajasthan — Delhi conducted the most inspections and actions to control pollution levels. The Supreme Court directed the CAQM Friday to take a decision within a week on the reopening of schools and resumption of industrial activities.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)


Also Read: 80% Delhi-NCR families have at least 1 member ailing due to air pollution, new survey says


 

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