Saturday, September 26, 2015

historic school closure

Yesterday was the first time school was cancelled because of the haze. In fact, in my memory including my own schooling years, it would be the first time school is cancelled at the last-minute. The projected PSI? Near 300, I think.

KK and I are out for cake and cuppa, when the kids send KK a message from my phone (which I had left at home) at 9.13pm: “Papa? Mama? Por Por called and said there is no school tomorrow! We are going CRAZEEEE!!!!”

The messages flew fast and furious, parent to parent. Today, hardly anyone turned up. In one school, I heard three children came to school although all the hapless teachers still had to report to work.

I suppose that (for the kids not the teachers) is the silver lining to a very dark and smelly cloud.

* Our haze watch from home

The haze which hit hard in 2013, and spared us in 2014, returned with a vengeance.

People are angry.

Parents from the kids’ school, unhappy with the school policy to turn on the air-con at 11am every morning regardless of pre-11am PSI levels, drop notes to the Prime Minister and egg each other on to force the school’s hand to turn on the aircon all day via Whatsapp chat groups and caustic personal attacks on school staff. 

In other schools where classrooms are not air-conditioned, the students have to study in rooms where doors and windows are shut tight, where they stew in a humid morass of carbon dioxide and possibly germs. The Primary 6 PSLE pupils are given priority of any air-conditioned space. They do, more than any pupil in school, need to think.

Events which required months of preparation were cancelled. At the kid's Por Por’s school, an annual Lantern event for which the school had already ordered thousands of lanterns, food and goodies was called off.

People boycott products (looks to be mostly toilet paper) which are allegedly linked to the burning forests.

Other people are angry – or puzzled - that these people are so angry. What’s the big deal, they wonder. KK merrily rides out all day, breathing in haze as well as car fumes and whatnot. That’s just life, he’d say.

Some are deluded. A parent I see yells at her kid when he laughs uproariously – “Don’t open your mouth so big! Or the haze will go in!” Everywhere I see, masks are worn wrongly, especially amongst the kids. Too-big masks hang off elfin faces, I see big holes around nose bridges, surgical masks are too common, most times masks are hanging around the pupils’ necks. 

Another old couple fearlessly head out in hazy weather sans masks, because once they recovered from an initial cough they felt that they had developed a resistance. “Really! Once you get used to it, you’ll be toughened and you’ll be fine!” (actually that does merit some thought)

Us, KK has never worn a mask. I wear one, even as my nose runs (very difficult to attend to a dripping nose with a mask on) and then I struggle to make the kids wear theirs. It’s impossible to make the kids – especially Day - wear their masks. It is tight and stinky and moist and the moment they leave the car in the morning, they rip it off.

* Wearing the wrong masks, before I bought the N95s

I was fearful in 2013. This time around, I’m afraid to say, I’m somewhat resigned to live with it.

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