NEW DELHI: Schools, colleges and educational institutes in the national capital will be closed for physical classes for a week from Monday because of the deteriorating air quality, the Delhi government announced on Saturday after an angry Supreme Court termed the rise in pollution an "emergency situation".
Online teaching and learning will continue in schools and colleges.
Schools in Delhi had reopened for all classes from November 1, after nearly 19 months of closure due to COVID-19.
"All schools, colleges and educational institutes in Delhi to remain shut next week as pollution levels hit emergency level," Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said.
Welcoming the Delhi government's decision, Aparajita Gautam, the president of the Delhi Parents Association, said, "Students were already at risk due to COVID-19 and suddenly cases have begun rising too. To put students at further risk due to the pollution would have been dangerous".
Anshu Mittal, the principal of MRG School in Rohini, said they were geared up to open from November 15 after prolonged closure due to the pandemic.
"The school was all geared up to open from November 15 for nursery to class eight. We were excited to welcome back our students and also aligned the arrangements as per the Covid norms. Activities enhancing student-teacher dynamic and some parent-students activities were also planned," she told PTI.
"However, we applaud the Delhi government's move in ensuring students and teachers' health and welfare. Poor air quality can have serious and long-term effects on the lung health of individuals. One of the major concerns that remain is preparation for upcoming board exams which was planned with mock-up classes and remedial sessions. This will be hampered due to delay in school opening and will have to be transformed completely online for the time being."
However, Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh's principal Alka Kapur had a different view about the suspension of physical classes.
"I agree that the health of children should be of primary concern. But we must realise that schools had just opened after a long period and it has affected studies. I believe some alternative steps should have been worked out like suspension of outdoor activities rather than completely closing schools," she said.
Kartik Singhal, Founder of O2 Cure and Director at Zeco Aircon Limited, said taking requisite measures against inhaling poisonous air resulting from various pollutants in outdoor as well as indoor environments has become the need of the hour.
"Such adverse changes in the air quality are resulting in significant health implications, leading to decrease in life expectancy. If such conditions persist, Delhi residents might start exploring options for employment in surrounding areas along with migration for better living as well," he said.
On Saturday, Delhi's air quality remained in the severe category for the third consecutive day with the 24-hour average air quality index being recorded at 437, a marginal improvement from the day before.
The air quality index of neighbouring Ghaziabad, Gurugram, Noida, Faridabad, Greater Noida was no better at 441, 441, 423, 464 and 408, respectively.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court suggested clamping a lockdown in the city as it asked the Centre and the Delhi government to take immediate measures to improve the air quality.
The court said the situation of pollution is so bad that people are wearing masks inside their houses.