Air Condition Schools!

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Today was a 40 degree summer’s day in a suburb on the eastern edge of a city known as Ipswich, in Queensland, Australia. Tomorrow they are predicting even higher temperatures.

Today my eyes were opened. Widely.

Imagine this. It’s 40 degrees. You are sitting in a classroom the size of your living room. You are sharing a small desk with another student. Shoulders and legs touching. There are 25 of you cramped into this space.  A large brick building opposite, blocking any flow of air. Windows open, but nothing happening.  Water bottles filled with HOT water. No chance of ice staying frozen. 

Today I worked in a Queensland school that is NOT air conditioned! But it’s not about me. It’s about the 25 students who sat in front of me for five hours in the sweltering heat. BRIGHT red faces, scary fatigued looks, sweat dripping down their foreheads. One child suffers horrendously from excema. His poor body was covered in it.  Resisting scratching was his biggest challenge today. Imagine someone telling you to stop scratching something so incredibly painful when your whole body is covered in sweat and you are handed two small ice cubes to help? And to top it off, you are expected to pick up a pencil and write.

My biggest challenge as their teacher today was keeping them smiling and awake. 

I expected these little humans to focus, sit still and complete activity after activity, for hours on end. Amazingly, they did this. They have very obviously been taught respect, diligence, resilience and persistence. But this was more than incredible. 

As I jumped into my sauna box (car) and drove off, turning the air conditioning up to the highest setting, I experienced a sudden, gut wrenching feeling of guilt. How could I expect ANYONE to do what I expected today? 

It’s NOT okay. It’s cruel. We know what the research says about survival in soaring temperatures. We know it has a direct, detrimental impact on health and well-being. We know it affects focus and working memory. We know it affects levels of patience. We know it festers anger. In fact, we know it all.  So, tonight I’m left feeling very confused and bewildered.

We CANNOT expect children to learn in these conditions. And we shouldn’t. We are responsible for their health and safety. Children are our future and we need to look after them. We can’t control the conditions outside, but we can control the level of comfort inside. 

Please support this. It’s just common sense. If we want to provide a quality learning and teaching environment, we MUST create a suitable and fair working environment. 

It shouldn’t be the responsibility of the school community to raise funds for something that is not only very costly, but a basic human right. To be safe, healthy and comfortable.

I say this in the most respectful manner; this is NOT okay. 

 

 

 

 

 


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