Schools in the light of climate change: “Children and teachers spend many hours a day in dilapidated and stuffy buildings”


DUSSELDORF. In the face of climate change, experts believe that severe and prolonged heat waves will remain the rule rather than the exception. To The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) states that there is a need for action in daycare centers and schools in light of the rise in temperature. Shadow oases are necessary for adults and children. NRW consumer center calls for public water dispensers – especially in schools. The German environmental aid even sees a “climate killer” in most school buildings.

Many school buildings are poorly insulated – which is also felt in the summer (symbol photo). Photo: Shutterstock

Suffocating heat, dry soil, lack of water and the risk of forest fires: people are currently feeling what heat waves mean in terms of climate change. It is predictable that heatwaves will continue to rise and ever higher record temperatures are coming our way. According to the Federal Environment Agency, eight of the eleven warmest years since weather records began in 1881 were observed between 2000 and 2018.

According to BfS, the number of sunny years has increased significantly in recent decades. “Climate change is bringing us more cloudless days in Germany and thus more ultraviolet radiation, which can cause serious cancer,” its president Inge Paulini told the newspapers of the Funke media group. The number of people newly diagnosed with skin cancer has more than doubled since 2000. The health risks from UV radiation must not be underestimated in the climate crisis.

“It is desirable that schools and daycare centers provide their outdoor areas with awnings or other shade providers”

It also affects the places where there are many children – especially the educational institutions. “It is desirable that schools and daycare centers, but also outdoor pools, provide their outdoor areas with awnings or other shade providers,” says Paulini. Many playgrounds, for example, are still in the blazing sun. Heat protection and UV protection should go hand in hand. To protect yourself from radiation, it is worth monitoring the current UV index. “Even with a fairly low value — that is, from value 3 — you should stay in the shade between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.,” Paulini said. “If the values ​​are significantly higher, it would be better to be in at lunchtime.”

The consumer advice center NRW also keeps an eye on the health burdens caused by the climate crisis. “Therefore there is an urgent need for measures to adapt to the consequences of climate change,” says board member Wolfgang Schuldzinski. “This also includes easy access to drinking water in public spaces.” The revised EU Drinking Water Directive, which Germany must implement into national law by 12 January 2023, also calls for improving this and ensuring that drinking water taps are available in public places.

The Consumer Advice Center is therefore calling for a government program to “connect schools to the (drinking) water network”: “Tap water is cheap, saves resources and is an ideal thirst quencher,” says Wolfgang Schuldzinski. “We have been fighting for this for a long time as the consumer advice center of North Rhine-Westphalia – and the new state government of North Rhine-Westphalia could play a pioneering role against the consequences of climate change if it gradually equipped all schools in the Nordic region. Rhein-Westphalia with drinking water taps. You could start with the first thousand as a starting signal.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to imagine the conditions under which our children will learn”

In the meantime, the German Environmental Aid (DUH) is keeping an eye on the school building. “The corona pandemic has made it clear that schools have no place on the political agenda. To this day, there is a lack of air filters, children and teachers spend many hours a day in dilapidated and stuffy buildings. Lack of thermal insulation often leads to mould, and modern building technology that can control both ventilation and temperature control is lacking in the vast majority of cases,” says a press release from July 2021. Other problems are summer heat protection and the partly catastrophic conditions in sanitary facilities.

“It is sometimes difficult to imagine the conditions in which our children have to learn,” says Barbara Metz, deputy union director of DUH. “A comprehensive renovation of schools in Germany must finally have political priority. This generation will suffer doubly from the poor building stock: today directly from the health burden and in the future from the climate change that these buildings contribute to.” News4teachers

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