While students from private schools are experiencing the heat wave, which is hitting the entire country, in air-conditioned classrooms, students from public schools in São Paulo are having a hard time facing the high temperatures in tin schools, at most, with fans.
For Danilo Moura, climate and environment officer at Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund), this contrast in conditions for learning is just a sample of how the climate crisis is likely to further worsen social and educational inequalities in the country.
“The climate crisis hits the most vulnerable populations much more seriously and reinforces the inequalities we already have. Those who already have less favorable conditions to study now have yet another disadvantage factor. This is yet another reason why we need to give faster responses to the climate changes we are experiencing”, he highlights.
For him, the reaction to the climate crisis involves measures that can curb extreme events, but also mitigate the effects already experienced, especially by the poorest.
“Those who are facing the most serious consequences cannot wait. We are all suffering from the heat, but some in a very harmful way. While the richest children are in classrooms with air conditioning, children on the outskirts are hot in schools with zinc roof. We still have children without school in the riverside communities of Amazonas, who can’t get to school because there is no longer a river”, he says.
A report published by Unicef estimates that 820 million children — more than a third of the world’s total — are currently exposed to heat waves. The situation is expected to worsen even further, as the planet’s average temperature increases and weather patterns become more erratic.
“We are at a level of climate change that already has contracted effects, that is, we are already living and we need strategies to deal with them. We urgently need actions so that children can continue studying even with these extreme events”, he says.
“It may not be economically viable to cool all classrooms in the country, but we have to make changes in infrastructure to guarantee milder conditions. There are, for example, architectural strategies to make buildings cooler, ensure that all schools have access the water.”
Data from the latest School Census, carried out by Inep, show that 13% of the country’s public schools had school activities interrupted by weather events, such as floods and landslides. Another 14% had to suspend classes due to lack of water.
“One of the biggest structural injustices of the climate crisis is that it affects those who have the least responsibility for it the most. The poorest and the youngest suffer most from it. It’s an intergenerational injustice, in terms of us passing the bill for our actions onto future generations.”