Apart from cold holidays, we need heat holidays

The prolonged heatwave, combined with unair-conditioned kindergarten buildings, has forced teachers and the youngest members of society to endure the heat for extended periods of time, either at school or work. There is no refuge from the heat, indoors or out, and in the midst of the climate crisis, this becomes an ongoing challenge.

Kindergartens and schools built during the Soviet occupation lack the necessary conditions for normal learning and work during a heatwave. As a result, during the heatwave, at least some Tallinn schools shortened lessons from 45 to 30 minutes for health reasons. At the same time, kindergartens are required to continue operating under normal conditions, which is neither pleasant nor safe in certain situations.

Thermometers are usually present in kindergarten rooms, and during the current heatwave, the internal temperature of the room is expected to rise to near or above 30 degrees. Dealing with 20 or more children in these conditions, such as putting them down for a nap, is an obvious challenge. A separate question is how children’s and staff’s health can be protected if there is no outdoor heat protection indoors.

Idealistically, you might believe that all children have enough shade outside, drink plenty of water, and avoid running or other activities that raise their body temperature even higher. However, learning and working in this heat is difficult for both children and teachers, and mild cases of sunstroke or heatstroke are common.

If your child returns home, goes straight to bed, or complains of a headache, drowsiness, or general feeling of well-being after a long day at kindergarten during a heatwave, the above could be the cause. Children, like the elderly, are at risk of heat-related illness, and this must be acknowledged, particularly in a country facing a deep demographic crisis.

Due to a lack of space, many new kindergartens are being built, with over 20 completed or planned in Tallinn this year.¹ New schools are also being constructed. Will the new kindergartens and schools have air conditioning or other methods of regulating room temperature?

This is an important aspect of crisis management in the context of the climate crisis, given that hot summer days will be more frequent rather than fewer.

Similarly, it is important to consider both hot and cold holidays on a national scale. The health requirements for schools must also account for rising temperatures, as extreme weather conditions can cause prolonged heat waves.

Hot weather is just as dangerous as cold weather; children and teachers deserve normal teaching and working conditions; new buildings must be outfitted with appropriate means of lowering room temperatures; and health requirements must be updated to cope with extreme temperatures. Not to mention the possibility of shelter in the event of a more serious crisis, which is a path we must all take as a community.

× The op-ed (by Anne-May Nagel) was previously published on the Päevaleht website on May 31, 2024. Photo: a child at the beach (Ashley K. Bowen/Pexels, 2018).

Jaga postitust: