Mumbai: Rising Vitamin D deficiency among students pushes classes outdoors

Some schools are now conducting their morning assembly outdoors and increasing the number of physical education classes. Others are taking their students to the playground much more just to breathe in some fresh air and catch a bit more of the smiling sun.

Alok ParekhUpdated: Monday, November 07, 2022, 09:53 AM IST
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A class in progress in the outdoors at MKN Bhatia school in Mumbai | Alok Parekh/ FPJ

The pandemic has taken its toll all right, but trust Mumbai schools to find innovative ways around it. Some schools are now conducting their morning assembly outdoors and increasing the number of physical education classes.

Others are taking their students to the playground much more just to breathe in some fresh air and catch a bit more of the smiling sun. Peadiatricians are happy with new therapy because the lack of vitamin D can result in serious ailments later, even rickets.

Schools' alternatives to deal with rising Vit D deficiency

“There is a rising number of cases of vitamin D deficiency among students,” CL Madhuri, Principal, Army Public School, Colaba, said. “In our school, we found six such cases. So we started conducting assembly in the school compound so that students can stand in the daylight. Students perform assembly for 20 minutes at 7:50 am daily.”

Students at MKN Bhatia school in an outdoor class learning about plants

Students at MKN Bhatia school in an outdoor class learning about plants | Alok Parekh/ FPJ

Madhuri said that until the school was made aware of the ailment among children, the assembly used to be conducted in classrooms. Madhuri further said, “Understanding how severe the situation is, we planned weekly sessions for our students out in the sun. For about 40 minutes they perform respiratory exercises or play a certain sport where enough physical activity is demanded, allto have the sun smiling on them.”

Revathi Srinivasan, Principal of Smt Sulochanadevi Singhania School, Thane, said holding the assembly in the open and managing the children all at once is difficult for the school keeping in mind its strength of almost 7,000 students.

A class in progress in the outdoors at MKN Bhatia school in Mumbai

A class in progress in the outdoors at MKN Bhatia school in Mumbai | Alok Parekh/FPJ

“However, we have started taking students to the ground in batches, class-wise,” Revathi said. “They take walks and observe nature and spend quite some time there.” She added that there are daily physical education classes for which students go to the playground and play in the sun.

A principal from Khar said that in addition to the 15- minute morning assembly in the school compound and two physical education classes every week, students are taken to the ground during free classes as well.

Students gather in their school compound for morning assembly

Students gather in their school compound for morning assembly | Alok Parekh/FPJ

“We are aware of the health issues that students face due to lack of vitamin D,” Daljit Kaur, Principal, Shri Guru Gobind Singh English High School, Vikhroli, said. “However, we are waiting for our school to resume after the Diwali break so that our ground can undergo proper maintenance. Until then we cannot take our students out.”

The Chief Administrative Officer of the Bhatia Group of Schools, Dr Sangeeta Shetty, said that in all their schools, students not only attend assembly in the open but also classes in the compound.

“Our students are out in the daylight from 7:45 in the morning for three and a half hours,” she said. The arts and craft classes and a few maths and science lectures are held in the open.

Paediatricians laud intiative

Commenting on these initiatives, Mumbai paediatrician Nihar Parekh, Director at Cheers Child Care, Malabar Hill, affirmed thatthe idealtime for students to be in the sunlight is from 7:30 am to 9 am. “After that, the rays start harming our skin,” Dr Parekh said.

“Though the idea sounds good, there are a few things on the checklist that schools need to follow. If their sole purpose of allowing children to bask in the sunlight is to counter vitamin D deficiency, it is necessary for them to wear shorts and T-shirts instead of fullsleeved shirts and trousers. This would expose most of the skin to sunlight.”

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