Running schools in sub-zero temperature

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With Srinagar recording first sub-zero temperature of the season at -0.8 degree Celsius, people of Kashmir Valley and winter zones of Jammu province have been wondering when the authorities will declare closure of schools for winter vacations. Despite what the authorities claim, most of the schools in Kashmir and rest of the winter zone lack proper heating facilities and thus the children are suffering in intense cold conditions. The authorities claim that they are intending to keep the schools open in the interest of the students but the fact of the matter is that when you don’t have proper heating arrangements in schools, aren’t you exposing young children to health risks? Forget about heating arrangements, schools, particularly in rural and far flung areas don’t have proper accommodations, floorings, windows etc. A few days back, Directorate of School Education Kashmir issued a statement saying it wants to keep the schools open for more time, as long as the weather conditions permit. The authorities insist that keeping schools open for more time has become imperative as the classwork in schools is for remedial teachings as the students had developed learning gaps over the last two yearsbecause of  the prolonged closure of schools due to COVID-19.  One may not dispute this version but at the same time this should also be kept in mind that if the authorities are not able to provide a comfortable atmosphere in the classroom, how students would be able to study and grasp.

Parents have been complaining that their wards are suffering at schools as there are no heating arrangements. They describe the continuation of class work as torturous for young children who are made to freeze in freezing classrooms. They have been appealing the authorities to announce winter vacations at the earliest. The authorities need to listen to them. It is the health and well being of their children that is put to risk by dragging them to schools in sub-zero temperatures with no heating facilities available. If authorities are too keen to overcome the learning gaps of previous years, they should have made necessary heating arrangements in the schools in the month of September itself. The authorities need to be realistic. Saying that heating arrangements are being made in phased manner, the leave the most important question unanswered – what about the schools who may be included in latter phases. Will the children their continue to suffer till their schools fit in the scheme of things?

It is the children’s comfort and well being that should be the priority of the authorities. No matter what claims are made regarding the heating arrangements in schools, the parents know what it is and that is why they are insisting that schools should be closed for winter vacations. The authorities too should keep in mind the condition of schools and listen to what the parents are saying.

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