Climate change poses threats to education

(Bangkok) The education of millions of children is threatened by climate change, as demonstrated last month by the heat wave that hit Asia and forced school closures.

If the arrival of seasonal rains has offered a certain respite in certain regions, experts fear that this type of problem will worsen with ultimately serious consequences on schooling.

Asia is warming faster than the global average with more frequent, longer and more intense heat waves, but rising temperatures are not the only challenge.

With a warmer atmosphere comes more humidity, which can lead to heavy rainfall and flooding that can damage schools or close them for use as shelters.

Furthermore, higher temperatures can cause forest fires and pollution peaks, again forcing schools to close, as has already happened in India or Australia.

“The climate crisis is already a reality for children in East Asia and the Pacific,” the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned last year.

Mohua Akter Nur, 13, is living proof. Since her school closed, she has been suffocating in the only room in her house in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.


Mohua Akter Nur

As power cuts are frequent, the teenager cannot count on a fan to cool her cramped home.

“The heat is unbearable,” she told AFP last month. “Our school is closed, but I can’t study at home. »

The month of April marked the 11e consecutive month of record heat globally, and in Bangladesh, this phenomenon is evident, notes Shumon Sengupta, national director of the NGO Save the Children. “Not only are the temperatures higher, but it lasts much longer,” he said.

Infrastructure modernization

“Previously, few regions were affected by these heat waves, whereas today, this represents a larger part of the country,” he emphasizes.

In Asia, most schools are not equipped to deal with the growing consequences of climate change. Schools in urban Bangladesh are often overcrowded and poorly ventilated, says Sengupta.

In rural areas, corrugated iron roofs can turn a classroom into a veritable oven, and electricity to power fans sometimes runs out.

In Bangladesh and elsewhere, students often walk long distances to and from school, risking sunstroke.

The closure of schools can have serious repercussions “particularly for children in poor and vulnerable communities who do not have access to resources such as computers, internet and books” or to a home sufficiently protected from the heat, a said Salwa Aleryani, health specialist for UNICEF East Asia and the Pacific.

Sometimes left unsupervised by their parents who cannot afford to stay with them, they are more likely to be victims of trafficking or forced to work or marry, estimates Mme Sengupta.

Climate change also threatens schooling indirectly.

Research conducted by UNICEF in Burma has shown that crop shortages caused by rising temperatures and unpredictable rainfall are leading families to take their children out of school to help, or lack the means to pay the fees. of schooling.

Some wealthy countries in the region have taken steps to ensure that education is not affected by climate change.

In Japan, less than half of public schools were air-conditioned in 2018, but this figure increased to more than 95% in 2022.

Developing countries need aid to invest in infrastructure modernization, underlines Mr. Sengupta. But the only real solution to the crisis is to tackle the root cause: climate change.

source site-61