On Monday evening, Latha* a resident of Chennai received an unexpected email from a private school in RA Puram, where her son is currently studying. The short four-line email stated that the school will be closed between 19 June and 21 June for students from Pre-KG to Class 5 owing to water shortage.
And while she was surprised to hear this, Latha tells TNM, "It is expected because more water will be spent when there are smaller children in the building. And they won't lose out on too much academically in a few days of leave."
Across Chennai, there are similar reports of schools selectively announcing leave for certain classes or only holding half a day session, due to the shortage of water. With water tankers charging over 100% more than last year for transport of the essential resource, finances and availability of water have put a huge strain on educational institutes that have to provide supply of water for at least eight hours a day.
Ironically, most emails and messages to parents came on the same day municipality and rural administration minister SP Velumani declared that the water scarcity in Chennai was manufactured and did not affect schools.
Another private CBSE school in Chrompet sent out messages stating, "It has been decided by the management that the school will function between 8.00 am and 12.15 pm from 24.06.2019 for all classes due to scarcity of water."
Jaigopal Garodia school in West Mambalam meanwhile, has closed down its kindergarten sections. They told ToI that it was because students couldn't handle the heat but when TNM enquired independently at the school they claimed that they were still sorting out admissions based on the Right to Education Act.
"There are several schools that have discreetly changed timings or closed down certain sections due to scarcity of water," says KR Nandhakumar, State Secretary, Tamil Nadu Matriculation, Higher Secondary,and CBSE Schools Association. "But they are not saying it publicly because they are afraid of backlash from the government which is denying the issue," he adds.
School Education Minister KA Sengottaiyan however made it clear in a press meet on Tuesday that the government is not responsible for supplying water to private schools. "There is not much for the government to comment on it," he told the media.
(With inputs from Sreedevi Jayarajan)