“They wicked to do the poor children that!” the gas station attendant shouted to her co-workers as she wiped the sweat from her face which was brought on by the dreaded midday heat.
“How they go put my child in this heat?”
Her concern was that during these higher than average temperatures, schools were still conducting assemblies in the open air. Something that she said has the children feeling dehydrated and weak. And she’s not alone.
Even at our offices in Guardian Media, parents of students were complaining that it is unfair to have children exposed to this level of heat.
A counter-argument could be that at the time of morning assemblies it’s not the hottest time of the day. But there is something called the Heat Index or ‘the feels like’ temperature. That is a combination of the air temperature, humidity and wind speeds. So for example at 8 am yesterday the temperature was 29 degrees Celsius but it felt like 34 degrees Celsius.
And children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults as they have higher body water content along with higher metabolic rates.
“It’s something we have to look at, we will talk with our principals and school supervisors because the safety of our students is uppermost in our minds.”
That was the response of Education Minister, Anthony Garcia when Guardia Media approached him on the matter.
Garcia said principals are allowed to use their discretion with respect to how the morning assembly is conducted and he said there are options at their disposal.
“Most of our schools are equipped with a public address (PA) system so in some circumstances we can conduct the assembly using that system,” he said.
Garcia said morning assemblies must take place as it is paramount in instilling discipline and setting the tone for the day.
“The assembly must be considered as the first period of the activities at the school,” he added
Meanwhile, president of the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association Lynsley Doodhai agreed with the Education Minister that principals should use their discretion.
“If you are having the assembly in the open air and it is raining, then you will not have it, so the same logic must be applied there, the sun is hot, and the children will suffer and be uncomfortable. Therefore the assembly could be held in the classroom where you can still sing the National Anthem and the prayer, ” he said.
Doodhai said some principals already apply this logic.
But the First Vice President of the National Primary Schools Principals Association Paula Kalkman said most primary school principals do not expose the children to direct heat during morning assemblies and their best practise stipulates that assemblies should be no longer than fifteen minutes.
She admitted that not all schools are equipped with a PA system but said that if children are being kept out in the sun then it may be a rare circumstance and parents should report it to the association.