Schools put in measures to beat the heat

With some parents getting more worried after a Raffles Institution (RI) student collapsed from heatstroke last month, schools have said that they do take enough measures to beat the heat.

This includes following Ministry of Education (MOE) guidelines, which involve ensuring that students stay hydrated, feel fine before doing physical activities and avoid outdoor activities from 11am to 3pm. But several schools are even more cautious.

At Hwa Chong Institution, physical education (PE) teachers are trained in first aid, and no outdoor lessons are scheduled from 10.30am to 3.30pm.

At Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), all new students go through a medical screening, which includes an electrocardiogram test.

Ang Mo Kio Secondary principal Abdul Mannan also said that watercoolers are placed near the school's sports areas.

Responding to queries, an MOE spokesman said: "Schools are mindful of providing students with sufficient opportunities for hydration based on the weather, physical condition of students and the intensity of physical activity."

Joehann Johari, a 14-year-old RI student, was hospitalised after collapsing while jogging during rugby training at around 9am on March 20. A spokesman for the school said sports safety is important and that it "will continue to stress standard precautionary measures laid out by MOE".

According to the Meteorological Service Singapore, temperatures get warmer from late March to May.

On the day the RI boy collapsed, the temperature at 9am recorded at Ang Mo Kio weather station, which is near the school in Bishan, was 28.2 deg C. That is slightly higher than the long-term daily average temperature at 9am for March, which is 27.1 deg C.

With the weather getting hotter at this time of the year, parents The Straits Times spoke to expressed concern about their children having training and PE lessons under the sun.

"Sometimes, teachers give instructions from under the shade and children just listen to them, not realising their physical limits, said Ms Ng Ai Lin, a 49-year-old mother of three, whose 16-year- old daughter is a sports leader in school.

Mr Francis Cheng, 58, who has a 14-year-old son in Compassvale Secondary, was so worried that he wrote in to The Straits Times Forum last week, calling for schools to assure parents that they have safety procedures in place.

When contacted, Mr Cheng, who works in industrial sales, said he sometimes sees students running on the school fields under the sun.

"Why push them? It's not right - they are just kids, not recruits," said Mr Cheng, adding that parents cannot depend entirely on schools. "I tell my son to drink enough water, sit out of activities when he's unwell, and cycle only in the mornings or nights when it is cooler."

ateng@sph.com.sg