MILLIONS of students in The Philippines will not be allowed back to school until a coronavirus vaccine is available according to government officials who believe that resuming classes now will be too big a risk to take.
So far, 22,474 people have contracted the Covid-19 virus in The Philippines, of which there have been 1,011 fatalities. When the pandemic broke out, The Philippines shut down its schools like every other nation but of late, many countries are re-opening with nations like France and South Korea resuming face-to-face classes.
However, Philippine authorities see the risk as too great. Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte said that even if students could not graduate, they needed to stay out of school to fight the spread of the disease.
Education secretary Leonor Briones, added: “We will comply with the president’s directive to postpone face-to-face classes until a vaccine is available. Classes are to resume at the end of August and teachers will use distance learning methods via the internet or TV broadcasts where needed.”
Millions of people live in deep poverty in The Philippines and do not have access to computers at home, which is key to the viability of online classes. However, Mr Briones said that teachers and schools will have to adjust, depending on the availability of communication.
There has been little public opposition to the postponement of face-to-face classes in the Philippines, where hundreds of new infections are being detected daily despite early and strict lockdown measures. Children are generally not allowed outside their homes unless they are out getting essentials or heading to work.
Online enrolment for over 25m primary and secondary students started earlier this month for a delayed start to the school year, which normally runs from June to April in the Philippines. It is still not yet clear, however, how pupils, especially those in rural areas with no access to online facilities will learn online.
Scientists around the world are racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine but it is not clear when a viable candidate will be proven and distributed on a large scale. One of the contenders is from British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, which said last week that it is on track to begin rolling out a vaccine in September if ongoing trials prove successful.