Education allows the means for people to acquire knowledge and pursue career pathways, giving them a chance for higher social mobility. Although access to education is a basic human right, there have always been obstacles to it. The availability of quality education depends on where you reside, your level of income, and attainability of resources. Now, there is another barrier, which if not brought into the discussion and addressed, can generate severe repercussions on our youth’s education: climate change. While this will affect those already marginalised the most critically—even when education is available—we are starting to observe climate change having adverse effects on academic learning and performance, gender inequalities, and future economic development.
The research done on the effects of climate change on education concluded that extreme climate changes in the tropics could make it difficult for children to achieve a secondary school education. Excessive heat and precipitation in these areas, negatively affect everyone in fetal and early adolescence years—even those from more affluent households. This research was issued in the April 2019 copy of the publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The author of the research, Heather Randell, wrote that if climate change weakens educational attainment, it may have a compounding impact on underdevelopment that would over time amplify the immediate forces of climate change. “As the effects of climate change increase, children in the tropics will face new barriers to learning”, she added.
Examining the connections between extreme heat and precipitation in early growth and educational attainment in 29 nations in the tropics, Randell and co-author Clark Gray, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discovered that severe weather variations affect education in many guises. More than average rates of rainfall drove to the lowest predicted education for children in Central America and the Caribbean. Vulnerability to higher-than-average temperatures during prenatal and early childhood harms schooling and leads to fewer years of school attendance in Southeast Asia. Though the authors assumed well-off families to fare better; this was not the case. Children from the most educated families experienced the most unrelenting penalties when they felt hotter and drier circumstances in childhood.
Dhwani, a Sociology student, said that her college experience had been hampered because of the extreme weather conditions. She finds it hard to travel in the heat despite the air conditioning provided by the metro. On the other hand, a political science student, Neelakshi faced a massive heatstroke in the blistering hot summers in May while giving her examination. She was not able to give her best in the exam because of this.
It’s the same for school-going children. Priyanka, a 14-year-old girl, going to Bharat National Public School’s evening school programme, says that she has gotten used to the heat; however, her health deteriorates with the heat stress. She stated that one of her classmates dropped out because her parents were worried sick about her health and could not afford medication. Moreover, Aman a student of class sixth thinks it’s impractical for schools to hold assemblies in summers because he often sees his friends fainting.
The performance levels of students decrease and ailments due to extreme weather rapidly increase, thus leading to poor attendance and results. “Air conditioners can be installed in classrooms; however, they lead to the release of CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) which is more dangerous to the ozone layer,” remarked Ayush, a 10th grader.
Education, nevertheless, is one of the best ways to combat climate change. The National Curriculum Framework, 2005, highlighted the synthesis of environmental concerns and approved project-based learning. In 2016, the UGC began a six-month mandatory course on environmental studies for undergraduates from all disciplines. Climate change education for information, capacity building and reform is still at an early stage and should become a component of the structured instruction. As it was perceived in a UNESCO study, India needs policy agreement on sustainable development, climate change and environmental education.
Greta Thunberg spurred the youth and adult activists and leaders since August 2018, when she started missing school on Fridays to sit outside the Swedish Parliament. Thousands of youngsters in the movement called Fridays for Future, now protest every Friday to demand more proactive action from their governments and the global society. The latest organised climate strike on May 24th attracted participants from 130 nations.
Like the rest of the globe, strikes were also held in 13 Indian cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Kochi, Allahabad and Kozhikode. In Delhi, youngsters and adults marched on the stretch between Lodhi Gardens and Indira Paryavaran Bhawan. Students, activists, members of civil societies and others also participated. As the carbon dioxide levels rise, so does the number of people rising against it.
In agricultural economies like India, people are naturally reliant on temperature and rainfall. The rise in temperatures and reduced rain leads to a reduction in individual families’ incomes. With less disposable earnings, families are more inclined to spend their money on essentials like food rather than education fees. Families are also more prone to pull children out of school—so that children can work and add to the diminished family income.
A policy change will only bring the only possible solution for the real and lasting difference to educational accessibility. A school must be less costly and more accessible, and most importantly, livelihood diversification must be developed and supported. Families must adopt other forms of income generation other than farming so that their wages and familial choices are more flexible to environmental variability.