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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Extreme heatwave forces millions of students out of school

As the world grapples with the realities of climate change, the heatwave dilemma serves as a microcosm of broader challenges ahead.

As temperatures soar across the globe, the impact of heatwaves extends far beyond discomfort. In regions like Asia and North Africa, where scorching heat is increasingly becoming the norm, schools are grappling with a difficult decision: whether to keep classrooms open despite the sweltering conditions or to prioritize students’ health and close doors.

Classroom Heatwave

Hena Khan, a ninth-grade student in Dhaka, Bangladesh, epitomizes the struggles faced by millions of students worldwide as they contend with extreme heat. With temperatures surpassing 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) in the capital, Khan laments the lack of conducive learning environments. The dilemma is stark: overheated classrooms impede both teaching and learning, posing risks to students’ well-being.

Read More: 160 million Indians cast ballots in intense heat

Educational Inequalities Amplified

The impact of heatwaves on education exacerbates existing inequalities, both within and between countries. In developing nations, where educational infrastructure often lacks adequate cooling systems, students bear the brunt of heat-related disruptions. Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, grapples with high rates of school closures, widening the gap between developed and developing regions. Moreover, disparities within wealthy countries are laid bare, as poorer districts struggle to provide air-conditioned classrooms compared to their affluent counterparts.

Health Risks vs. Educational Gains

The decision to keep schools open during heatwaves presents a stark trade-off between health and education. While maintaining educational continuity is crucial, risking students’ health in stifling conditions could have long-term consequences. Studies reveal that high temperatures impair cognitive function, hindering students’ ability to learn and retain information. Moreover, prolonged exposure to extreme heat exacerbates health risks, particularly for vulnerable populations.

Global Efforts to Combat the Heatwave Challenge

Governments and organizations worldwide are increasingly recognizing the urgency of addressing the heatwave dilemma. Initiatives range from building heat-resilient schools equipped with passive cooling systems and air conditioning to implementing policies aimed at mitigating the impact of extreme heat on education. For instance, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is investing in heat-resilient schools in Jordan, acknowledging the need to adapt to rising temperatures.

Read More: Urgent need of heat supply due to historically low temperatures in China

As the world grapples with the realities of climate change, the heatwave dilemma serves as a microcosm of broader challenges ahead. Mitigating the impact of extreme heat on education requires concerted efforts at local, national, and global levels. Investments in resilient infrastructure, educational adaptation strategies, and equitable access to resources are paramount. Moreover, addressing the root causes of climate change is essential to safeguarding the future of education for generations to come.