Schoolchildren, especially those studying in government-run institutions, are among those hit the hardest by a heatwave sweeping across the country.
Lacking in basic amenities such as fans, drinking water and proper toilets, it’s a tough lesson these kids are being taught in the scorching heat.
In Jharkhand, for instance, over 60% of state-run schools lack electricity. So the government is relying on local fixes to keep classrooms cool—drinking water in earthen pots, bamboo-and-straw mats on windows panes and charcoal coolers, charcoal kept in cubic wooden structures is sprayed with water that provides evaporative cooling when warm air passes through it.
Last week, the government fixed schools timings from 6.30am to 11am. Schools in Jamshedpur, which saw the mercury rising to 45 degrees Celsius, were told to dismiss classes by 10.30am.
“Since electrification of all schools will take at least two years, schools have been instructed to keep children indoors, ensure availability of drinking water in earthen pots and use local techniques to keep the classrooms cool,” said Aradhana Patnaik, state school education and literacy secretary.
In neighbouring Bihar, state teachers’ association claims nearly 70% state-run schools don’t have drinking water facilities.
“Expecting ceiling fans is sheer wishful thinking,” said Mithilesh Sharma of the association.
Rajkishore Singh, acting headmaster of a girls’ middle school at Punaichak in Patna, said, “There is so much emphasis on mid-day meals but none on providing drinking water to students.”
Odisha, which saw mercury levels crossing 46.3 degrees Celsius, initially changed the timing of schools in early April but decided to shut classes till April 26 as temperatures soared.
“We will take a call if the closure should be further extended,” state special relief commissioner PK Mohapatra said.
Already, 45 suspected sunstroke cases have been reported from Odisha, which has over 6.3 million students in 69,000 primary and secondary schools.
Further south, the Telangana government advanced summer holidays from April 23 to April 16 after its maximum temperature crossed 40 degrees Celsius.
Uttar Pradesh has fixed school timings from 7am to 12pm until the temperature –hovering around 42 degrees Celsius – drops. But it’s is not enough.
“It becomes difficult for students to study because of the erratic power supply. Also, there are no generators at our schools,” said RP Mishra, principal of the Queens Anglo Inter-College.
A government school student said the administration should close all the schools by advancing the summer vacations. “Instead, the schools can start early in the third week of June – once the monsoon arrives,” he said.