Mumbai: School attendance dips as poor air, cold weather infect students

Mumbai: School attendance dips as poor air, cold weather infect students

On Monday, Mumbai’s overall AQI in the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecast and Research (SAFAR) dashboard showed 306, which is categorised as ‘ very poor’.

Musab QaziUpdated: Wednesday, January 18, 2023, 11:57 AM IST
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Mumbai: As the temperature in Mumbai drops and air pollution worsens, schools across the city and suburbs find many students turning up sick or even skipping classes due to viral infections. In some schools, attendance has dropped by around 15-20% during last week, with several students leaving for home in the middle of the day.

In the last few days, the city's lowest temperature is hovering around between 14°C and 16°C - the lowest of this season. On Monday, Mumbai’s overall AQI in the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecast and Research (SAFAR) dashboard showed 306, which is categorised as ‘ very poor’. The educators and doctors have blamed the city's cold weather and poor air quality on the rising illness and absenteeism in schools.

During last fortnight, several students at Bal Bharati Public School in Navi Mumbai had to be sent back home due to illness. "Students are coming to school but they complain of cold, cough, and fever. We provide them with medicines and call their parents to take them home," she said.

Some schools in eastern suburbs have recorded a sharp uptick in student absences in the last few days. "On Monday, 79% of the students were in school, while on Tuesday it was 82%. We usually record 95-98% attendance. The parents tell us that the kids are down with the regular cold and cough. Many students don't get up on time due to cold weather and end up missing school," said Sunaina Awasthi, Principal, Orchids The International School, Mulund.

The attendance at Kanakia International School, Chembur is down to 70% from the usual 90% and above. "Many students are not coming, while others want to go back after a lesson or two. They are suffering from ailments such as cold, cough, fever and headache," said the school principal Shuchi Shukla.

A teacher at a private school in Mira Road said that they have been witnessing a rise in viral fever among students, but they are still turning up at school for the tests. "The attendance is steady because we are conducting tests. Otherwise, we would have witnessed more absences. We allow students who have gotten ill in the classroom if their doctor permits, or otherwise let them go home. In some cases, we segregate them from other students and let them take the tests," he said.

Sonal Parmar, Principal, Cathedral School in Fort said that although the students are showing up in school, many of them are coughing. "There's concern about the worsening air quality in the city. We have asked parents to not send children to school if there's anything of concern. We are also minimising our external activities to some extent," she said.

According to Dr. Bakul Parekh, a pediatrician, the chilly weather, coupled with poor-quality air and a viral epidemic, has resulted in unusually high levels of illness among kids in the city. "As many as 90% of cases that I am handling these days are related to the weather conditions. It's almost five times as much as the regular cases and is much worse compared to previous years. I am even witnessing an unusually high number of Pneumonia cases. The air pollution has gotten much worse, with industries in the Ghatkopar-Chembur area adding to it," he said.

The schools are also doing their bit for the kids' health and to ensure that they don't lose much due to absence. Some schools are sharing the content from the day's lessons on their Learning Management System (LMS) portals, while others have slowed down their academic activity to some extent. They are also encouraging students to spend time on playground so that they get adequate sunlight and physical activity.

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