A heatwave in Pakistan is forcing schools to close, leaving more than half the country’s school-age children locked out of the classroom.

At least 26 million children in Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab (52 per cent of the country’s total number of school pupils) will be out of school from 25 to 31 May.

Pakistan is the latest country to close schools due to climate extremes. Bangladesh and the Philippines also closed schools last month as the mercury soared, while in South Sudan schools were shut for two weeks.

Punjab’s education department said a surge in temperatures and a prolonged heat wave in the province had prompted the authorities to shut all schools but added that schools will be ‘allowed to conduct examinations as scheduled’.

Climate and environmental threats are responsible for the disruption of the education of over 37 million children each year and heat has a significant impact on education, with students showing lower levels of achievement during hot school years. In East Asia and the Pacific, around 243 million children are exposed to hotter and longer heatwaves, putting their health and their education at risk.

Pakistan faces rates of warming considerably above the global average with a potential rise of 1.3°C–4.9°C by the 2090s. The frequency of extreme climate events in Pakistan is projected to increase as well, putting strain on urban dwellers and outdoor labourers in Pakistan with increased risk of heat-related sickness and even death.

Muhammad Khuram Gondal, Save the Children’s Country Director in Pakistan, said: “Prolonged exposure to intense heat impacts children’s ability to learn and to concentrate and this puts their education at risk. Excess heat is also potentially lethal to children. We live at a time when the effect of climate change is all around us and it is undeniable that we need immediate and long-term solutions and support from the international community and world governments to effectively mitigate climate change for now and for future generations.”

In Sindh province, Save the Children, in collaboration with the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Sindh, has initiated a heatwave emergency response to raise awareness among communities, including children, about precautions to take during the heatwave. Save the Children is also leading a social media campaign to raise awareness about the risks associated with extreme heat.

Save the Children calls on higher-income countries like the UK to increase their climate funding for lower-income countries, who are bearing the burden of a crisis they did not create.

* Source: Save the Children