Did aerial spraying of endosulfan by the Plantation Corporation of Kerala in Kasaragod district affect the learning abilities of a generation of pupils?

A study by Thanal, a public interest research, advocacy, education and action trust here, has come across a correlation between the academic performance of pupils in two high schools in the area and the spraying of endosulfan. The study found that the SSLC results of the schools improved considerably after discontinuation of the spraying of endosulfan in their neighbourhood. (Endosulfan, a neuro toxin, is known to cause learning disorders and memory loss.)

The government Higher Secondary School at Padre in the district had an average pass percentage of 49.32 per cent in the SSLC Examinations in the 1981-91 period when the spraying was going on. The nineties saw a steady decline in pass percentages with the percentage touching an all-time low of 26 per cent in 1999- 2000. The results improved almost steadily thereafter and touched 100 per cent in 2008-09. (Protests had grown against the spraying in the late nineties and the Corporation had discontinued spraying of endosulfan from 2001.)

The results from Government Higher Secondary School at Kottodi in Kallar panchayat also showed a similar trend with the nadir in the mid-nineties with pass percentages of less than 25 per cent. It crossed 80 per cent in 2003-04 and recorded the highest pass percentage of 96.8 per cent last year.

The study report said that the further studies would have to be done on the issue considering others factors such as strength of teachers in schools that could affect academic performance before a conclusion could be drawn. The study was done by Dr. Y. S. Mohankumar, M. Lakhsmi Narasimhan, K. Rarima and C. Jayakumar.