The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.

Delhi pollution: No school, no play for city’s children

That is the refrain that sixyear-old Vanraj’s mother, Pakhi Khanna, is bracing herself to deal with for the next couple of days in the Indian capital Delhi. The 38-year-old has cut her son’s outdoor playtime to 30 minutes from two hours; his classes have shifted online this week, and football coaching has been called off. Vanraj is among thousands of schoolchildren in Delhi whose schedules have abruptly changed due to air pollution rising to alarming levels. Over the past few days, Delhi’s Air Quality Index (AQI) – which measures the level of PM 2.5 or fine particulate matter in the air – has consistently crossed the 450 mark, nearly 10 times the acceptable limit. Breathing this toxic air is akin to smoking 25-30 cigarettes a day, according to lung specialists. Things are so bad that Delhi’s Environment Minister Gopal Rai has asked all schools to remain shut until Friday, with offline classes only for high schoolers. This isn’t the first time that air pollution has disrupted learning in Delhi – it has been happening every winter over the past fourfive years. “In fact, the number of days schools are shut due to air pollution has been increasing. Now, classes are disrupted for at least five-six days at a stretch,” says Shariq Ahmad, principal of a government school in Kalkaji in south Delhi. Parents and experts are concerned about the effect of these abrupt breaks in learning and daily routines on children, especially when schedules had just got back to normal after the Covid-19 pandemic. A thick layer of smog envelopes Delhi in the mornings As always, things are more difficult for families with fewer resources. Deepa, who works as a domestic help and uses only one name, says that the online model of learning doesn’t work for her sons. Abhishek, 12, in the seventh grade, and Prasanna, 10, in the fifth grade, study in a government school. Since Friday, the school has asked children to study at home, with teachers emailing photos of worksheets to be completed in the morning. But Deepa’s family doesn’t own a laptop – the children can only access their schoolwork after their mother, who cooks and cleans in many houses, returns home in the afternoon and gives them her mobile phone. She says that her sons struggle to understand the lessons without help from teachers. “I worry that this will affect their performance in the exams next month,” Deepa says. bbc

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The Kabul times, Afghanistan Trustable News Agency.