“The Ministry of Education (MOE) and schools have in place a school continuity plan to ensure the well-being of our students and staff during a haze situation,” the ministry’s website says. “Schools are ready to respond and take appropriate haze management measures based on a set of guidelines corresponding to the health advisory.”
Despite the ministry’s assurance, however, some parents want more to be done to protect their children from the haze, which has affected Singapore the past few months.
A group of 20 parents of students from one primary school approached the principal recently to explore further measures which could be introduced to protect the children from exposure to the haze.
While the meeting ended with some headway being made with regards to addressing the parents’ concerns, the latter were left wondering if more could still be done.
One of the suggestions which they presented to the school was for air purifiers to be provided to all classrooms.
The parents themselves were prepared to donate or lend these purifiers to the school for all classes.
However, according to the parents, the principal said that he could not consider the option.
“Despite our repeated queries, the principal did not provide any explanation as to the reasons for declining our offer,” the parents said in an email to Member of Parliament for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Christopher de Souza, last week.
The parents were seeking the MP’s help to urge the relevant authorities and the MOE to provide clearer guidelines on further measures in protecting students from the annual haze.
The Online Citizen (TOC) has seen a copy of the email, and we understand that Mr de Souza has not responded to it.
The email said one parent had told the principal that her child had recently been discharged from a five-day stay in the hospital, “where he had been warded for lung infection from the haze.”
“Naturally, this was very sobering information, as it surely is not – and rightly should not be – MOE’s or any of the relevant parties’ position that children would need to actually fall sick for adequate measures to be in place for their protection,” the email added.
By the end of the meeting with the principal, the parents were told that the school was prepared to provide air purifiers in the classes – but only for primary 1 and 2 classes.
This perplexed the parents who, while glad that the school was willing to implement other further measures, were nonplussed about why air purifiers were not going to be made available to all classes.
“With all due respect to the relevant decision-makers, how was it justifiable that one group of children deserved protection, but not those who were only marginally older?” the parents’ email to Mr de Souza asked.
“As our children spend at least 6 to 7 hours a day in school, we are concerned about the extent of exposure they have to harmful particles in the haze, especially when they are studying in classrooms with open windows and doors.”
“We understand that equipping every classroom with air purifier will have financial considerations,” the email said. “However, not taking the necessary pre-emptive measures now will in all likelihood lead to even higher medical bills that will be faced by the population in the future. Accordingly, we urge MOE and/or MOH and/or other relevant agencies to review their current guidelines and measures for the schools.”
The parents reiterated that they were willing to contribute the air purifiers to the school and asked the MOE to “provide clearer directives as to whether parents are allowed to contribute air purifiers to the schools via fund raising or by way of loan from willing parents.”
“Please help us to understand MOE’s rationale if such measures are not accepted,” the group said to Mr de Souza.
Meanwhile, on the MOE website, the ministry says “[the] well-being of all students remains a key priority.”
“Teachers will be on the lookout for students who are unwell and ensure that these students receive medical attention promptly. For students who have pre-existing heart or lung conditions, schools have a list of these students’ names and will also be monitoring their well-being.”
It also says that “[all] primary and secondary schools have in place a set of haze management plans and are ready to implement the appropriate haze management measures as required.” (See here.)
The ministry is also ready to close all schools if the situation warranted it, as it did on 25 September when the haze was expected to worsen that day.
The Online Citizen has written to Mr de Souza and the school for comments on the matter.