3 December 2021 - India

Closure of Delhi schools and colleges should be ‘final straw’ in air pollution crisis, says Save the Children

Child writes in school book

The Indian Supreme Court’s decision today to once again close Delhi’s schools and colleges indefinitely should be the final straw in the city’s air pollution crisis, says Save the Children. We cannot ignore this health and education emergency, the child rights organisation said.

Data from India’s Central Pollution Control Board this week showed that Delhi had recorded its worst November air quality in at least six years, with 11 days of ‘severe’ air pollution.

Last month, Delhi’s Commission for Air Quality shut down all educational institutions due to the worsening situation, after up to 18 months of COVID-19 related school closures. On Monday, classrooms re-opened, but just four days later, students have once again been sent home. 

Sudarshan Suchi, CEO of Save the Children India, said:

We are extremely concerned for the health and education of children and their families in Delhi. Education is a right of every child and each one deserves to be able to go to school safely – and if not, then governments and civil society must work together to improve access to remote learning.

“After 18 months of school closures – among the longest in the world – Delhi’s schools were taking baby steps to re-open and bring students back, but this new ‘air pollution lockdown’ has put a stop to hopes that they would safely return to the physical classroom. The digital divide has resulted in disproportionate learning loss among children from disadvantaged communities, especially girls. Pre pandemic data suggests that nearly 10% children aged between 6 and 17 in the city were out of school, and we fear that this figure will have increased”.

Once again, children pay the price for an environmental crisis caused by adults. We urge the authorities to take pollution seriously and find a long term solution to this crisis and to find alternative teaching-learning methodologies especially for the most vulnerable."

Save the Children urges all stakeholders to work together to improve access to remote learning so that children, especially those from less privileged backgrounds who have been disproportionately impacted, can get their learning back on track.

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