The Capital’s toxic air has necessitated a total closure of schools, with the Delhi government ordering these educational institutions to declare an early winter break for all classes from November 9 to 19.
In an order dated November 8, the Directorate of Education (DoE) said that “winter break for the session 2023-24 is ordered to be advanced so that schools can be totally closed and both children and teachers can stay at home”.
The order comes amid serious concerns surrounding the long- and short-term impact of air pollution on the health of people, especially children’s. On Wednesday, the air quality index reading was 426, according to the Central Pollution Control Board.
“In wake of implementation of GRAP-4 measures due to severe air quality prevailing in Delhi and seeing that no respite from such adverse weather conditions in near future is predicted by the IMD (India Meteorological Department), the winter break for the session 2023-24 is ordered to be preponed so that schools can be totally closed and both children and teachers can stay at home. Accordingly, all schools shall observe winter break with effect from November 9 2023 to November 18 2023. Heads of school to convey this information to parents immediately,” the order signed by Delhi’s education director Himanshu Gupta stated.
A decision on the annual winter break will be issued in due course of time, the order said.
To be sure, measures under the fourth stage of the Graded Response Action Plan to curb pollution only allow state governments in the NCR to discontinue physical classes for classes 6 to 9 and class 11, and conduct lessons online.
The announcement has left a section of teachers and school principals worried, while others said that it will help students who were struggling to attend online classes due to lack of devices. Earlier, the pollution crisis had prompted the DoE to order a shift to online classes for all, barring students of Class 10 and 12, from November 3 to 10.
Private school principals said that the move will impact their academic calendar, while government school principals welcomed it. A principal of a government school, who did not want to be named, said, “Many of our students do not have mobile phones for online classes. Holidays will be more beneficial for students.”
There are 5,619 recognised schools in Delhi where nearly 4.57 million students are enrolled. The Delhi government has 1,250 government and aided schools. The education department mandates a minimum of 220 working days must be observed to meet the provisions laid down in the section 19 of Right to Education Act, 2009.
Sucha Acharya, principal of privately run ITL Public school and chairperson of the National Progressive Schools’ Conference, said, “This (the order) will change our academic calender significantly. While health hazards are important to look at, the only solution cannot be school closure.”
Delhi Parents’ Association president Aprajita Gautam said, “What are children going to do when the temperature drops drastically in winter? In addition to this, many families plan holidays during the winter breaks… While many think that the move is better than taking online classes, it is unfair to term it winter holidays. This is not a solution, and the government think of permanent solutions.”