Delhi Pollution: Primary schools to reopen, environmentalists call it knee-jerk reaction

As the air quality gets better, decision to reopen schools after a brief closure seen as measure taken in right direction for students, teachers.

Delhi Pollution. (Picture: Shutterstock)Delhi Pollution. (Picture: Shutterstock)

Press Trust of India | November 7, 2022 | 07:50 PM IST

NEW DELHI: School principals have welcomed Delhi government's decision to restart primary classes from Wednesday following improvement in air quality even as environmentalists warned against "knee-jerk reactions". As the air pollution in Delhi-NCR ameliorated over the last two days, the Delhi government decided to reopen schools which were closed for primary classes since Saturday.

"The overall education system has already been significantly disrupted during the pandemic where the country witnessed a long closure of schools. Shifting from offline to online mode was well adopted by the teachers and students. But the situation took a toll on the mental well-being of the students," said Alka Kapur, Principal, Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh. "Now, the schools getting closed due to deteriorating air quality is another setback for the education system.

Also Read | Delhi primary schools to remain closed from tomorrow due to pollution

Hence, as the air quality gets better, the decision to reopen schools after a brief closure can be seen as a measure taken in the right direction for both the students and the teachers," she added. Pooja Bose, Principal, Pacific World School echoed her views, saying the pandemic has caused considerable learning losses, and extending school closures further would have caused a downslide in their learning comprehension and grasping strengths.

"Online classes will never be able to replace classroom teaching and comfort. I appreciate the authorities for respecting the arguments of many academicians and learned men and women. On the other hand, student-friendly measures have been implemented in our school to ensure they study in a safe and sound study environment," she said. The Centre's air quality panel on Sunday directed authorities to lift the ban on plying of non-BS VI diesel light motor vehicles in the region and the entry of trucks into the capital imposed under the final stage of the Graded Response Action Plan.

The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) order recommending the restrictions was issued on Thursday. However, environmentalist Vimlendu Jha said it could be too soon to revoke curbs as the air quality has improved a wee bit due to favourable wind speed and will go back to the "severe" category in a couple of days. "These are knee-jerk reactions and should be avoided. It is too soon to do away with the restrictions. The government should instead analyse the situation and bide some time before revoking the curbs because this situation will be there for a long time," he added.

Also Read | Delhi Pollution: Parents opinions divided over school closure amid worsening air quality

Concurring with him, environmentalist Jyoti Pande said the government has been undertaking fire-fighting measures instead of controlling emissions and the sources of pollution. "Every year, the GRAP comes in and curbs are implemented. GRAP is a fire-fighting exercise," she said. Pande has left Delhi due to the toxic air and said it is painful for her to leave her friends and extended family behind. The air quality in the national capital was recorded in the "very poor" category on Monday. Anshu Mital, Principal, MRG School, Rohini, said the incidents of stubble burning have lowered, and the smog pollution has declined, though the air quality still remains in "very poor" category.

"It's a topsy-turvy situation, and we cannot see things as white and black and pass a facile comment. In my view, the government has decided to reopen schools in light of concerted and positive changes that have been taken to curb pollution levels, which will reflect in a more prominent manner in the coming days. "We already have a proper mechanism in place to safeguard students and take good care of them. So, reopening schools would not cause to be a misguided decision and can be termed as a cerebral decision to check up to what extent economic sectors should be opened to allow a healthy balance and check pollution levels at the same time," she said.

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