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Monday, March 8, 2021

Some Qatar private schools shorten hours due to rising heat

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Citing extreme temperatures, several private schools in Qatar have joined the country’s independent schools in shortening classes and finishing up the school day earlier.

Government-run schools across the nation first implemented the shorter hours last week, with students now finishing the day at noon instead of 1pm.

After the thermometer hit 46C last week, and with humidity higher than usual for this time of year, more than half-a-dozen private schools have also decided to curtail their working days.

The move has resulted in applause from some parents, but others have criticized changing the schedules on short notice.

Affected schools

Included on the list is Newton International School Lagoon, which has cut its school day by about 90 minutes, finishing at noon instead of 1:30 or 1:40pm,  following a directive from the school group’s CEO, Afaf Al Moadhadi.

A member of the school’s management team told Doha News that the decision was made to help children who are struggling to concentrate on their studies due to the heat.

“It is nearly the end of the academic year, and it is extremely hot. It is difficult for children to pay attention for any length of time. They are all hot and tired and will benefit from the shorter day,” she said.

The school had also shortened its hours last summer, she added.

Birla Public School
Birla Public School

Meanwhile, Birla Public School has also shortened their school days. Citing “extreme weather conditions,” Birla said kindergarten classes now run from 7am to 10:30am, while the rest of the school closes at 12:30pm, according to a notice on its website.

Bhavan’s Public School has followed suit with the same timings, which took effect yesterday.

Additionally, Ideal Indian School announced on its website that, as of yesterday, its kindergarten classes will run from 6:50am until 9:15am. Hours for the remainder of the school will be 6:50am to 12.30pm.

And Al Mahd International School has curtailed its school day by 30 minutes, finishing classes at noon instead of 12:30pm, a message on its website said.

Likewise, DPS Modern Indian School has advised that its day will be one hour shorter from tomorrow, June 9, “due to excess heat.”

In a message on its website from Principal Asna Nafees, its nursery and prep classes will run from 7:15am until 10:30am, while hours for the rest of the school will be 7:15am until 1pm.

A school official said school days had been similarly shortened at this time last year.

No outdoor games

Like many other schools throughout Qatar, DPS-MIS has also stopped allowing children to play games and sports outdoors during the hotter months. In guidance to its community, officials said:

“In order to avoid heat stress, all students are advised not to play in the playground areas during the recess,” it said in a notice online.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, many other private schools are opting to continue with their normal timetable until the start of Ramadan, expected around June 18, when they will operate shorter hours.

With temperatures now well into the 40s, the weather this year does appear to be hotter than is expected for June, and the humidity has kicked in earlier than is usually the case.

Steff Gaulter, senior meteorologist for Al Jazeera English, said such conditions aren’t usually experienced in Qatar until around the middle of July. However, winds should help to clear the worst of the sticky humidity by the weekend.

Avoiding heat stress

In addition to concerns over children’s attention spans in the heat, schools are also keeping a close eye out for heat stress cases.

For illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Heat stress can occur when a person is over-exposed to high temperatures, becomes dehydrated and unable to maintain a regular temperature of around 36-37C.

Some of the key signs of the first stages of heat stress include lethargy, a slight loss of appetite, nausea and a slight headache. While it usually affects those working outside in the heat, anyone can develop heat stress.

Each year, Hamad Medical Corp. issues advice to residents on ways to avoid the condition. During the summer months, HMC hospitals usually see a rapid increase in the number of people receiving treatment for the condition, from 10 people per week up to 10 a day.

Key tips include:

  • Keeping hydrated – drink water regularly (every 15 to 30 minutes, even if you are not thirsty) and avoiding caffeinated or alcoholic drinks, which can be dehydrating;
  • Replacing large meals with several small snacks throughout the day. Salty snacks such as crackers can help replace salts and minerals lost through sweating;
  • Avoiding being outside while the sun is at its strongest, between 11am and 3pm;
  • Not leaving infants, children or pets unattended in a parked car, as temperatures can rapidly rise inside the vehicle; and
  • Keeping an eye on the vulnerable, such as elderly people, young children and babies, and those who are obese or who have chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension.

Thoughts?

15 COMMENTS

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Chilidog
Chilidog
5 years ago

I’m sorry, I just don’t get this. Am I the only one? In Qatar, all schools (should) have air conditioners. So the kids sit in the exact same temperature in class regardless of what it’s like outside. And with play being moved inside there’s even less worry about the heat. Is this another example of SEC “supremeness” at its finest again (and other schools seeing an opportunity for a shorter work day and following suit)?

Mr. B
5 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

In a lot of the buildings, the AC isn’t very good, and under these temperatures they either don’t work well or they break down. I used to work in a private school in Doha that would have one wing blistering and another freezing, and endless visits from AC mechanics didn’t solve the problem. They’d have had to replace the whole AC, but since the building was owned by the Supreme Education Council, such a task was far easier said than done. So while my old school isn’t on the list of places cutting their hours here, it would make sense in my mind to get kids out before the AC started to weaken or wobble.

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
5 years ago
Reply to  Mr. B

Why aren’t the A/Cs any good? Did they buy them at Najma souq? I don’t believe that an A/C from Carrier can’t cope with the heat. Shouldn’t those schools be closed forever by the municipality?

Mr. B
5 years ago

It was never, for us, unbearable, but certainly deeply uncomfortable, and if someone were sick or had some kind of condition, probably dangerous. Being trapped in a stagnant room with 25 people at 27-30 degrees grates on you.

Transcension
Transcension
5 years ago

Cost-minimization. Sadly most, if not all private schools here are run like businesses, therefore profit first. Education? Inshallah.

Chilidog
Chilidog
5 years ago
Reply to  Mr. B

I understand the frustration of a bad A/C. But don’t all school buildings have to be signed off by the government (Civil Defense?) as OK for use? And are those inspections periodic or only on initial opening of the building?

And doesn’t Qatar possess the most earth-shattering cooling technology, or was that only meant to be used in stadiums? (rhetorical and/or sarcastic)

Mr. B
5 years ago
Reply to  Chilidog

Those inspections were spotty in my old, SEC-owned school. I suspect a lot of it had to do with poor insulation; windows would leak in heat, or be single paned. Other problems came from shoddy contractor work; if it was badly done when originally installed, the chances of fixing it weren’t great. Some schools absurdly insist on huge, open areas indoors that require massive amounts of energy to cool; leave a door open for half an hour, even just a crack, and you siphon the entire school. As kids are kids, that happens plenty too.

Simon
Simon
5 years ago
Reply to  Mr. B

And as we all know, since locals do not pay utility bills, they have no incentive whatsoever to ensure that buildings are properly insulated.

Mr. B
5 years ago
Reply to  Simon

That happens with everyone, including myself. Why not blaze the AC when my bill is stupid low no matter what?

alma wad
alma wad
5 years ago

Am I the only one ? Even sitting in air conditioned room I get very tired around noon when temperature is the highest outside …I see this decision of the SEC as a wise one

Paul
Paul
5 years ago
Reply to  alma wad

haha good one!

terracotta
terracotta
5 years ago

In fact it should have started two weeks back. but better late than never

wee_johnnie
wee_johnnie
5 years ago

But wouldn’t it be better keeping the children in school longer when hot outside, rather than sending them home at the warmest time of the day? Would have thought that the building a/c is better than some of the buses used to transport the children home.

AEC
AEC
5 years ago

I don’t get this. The weather is often hotter at noon than 1:30pm. Why not keep them in until even later when it has cooled down a bit. If the air conditioning is not working the school shouldn’t be open or the bus shouldn’t be on the road.

Transcension
Transcension
5 years ago

I see little to no point on this, unless the schools have bad AC system (which should be fixed instead of shortening the hours). Easier said than done in Qatar, though.

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