Schools in the Philippines reopened for the new academic year on Monday but millions of children remained at home for a second year of remote lessons that experts fear will worsen an educational “crisis”.
While nearly every country in the world has partially or fully reopened schools to in-person classes, the Philippines has kept them closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nation said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has so far rejected proposals for a pilot reopening of primary and secondary schools for fear children could catch Covid-19 and infect elderly relatives.
Misery for schoolkids is compounded by a ban on them playing outdoors. A “blended learning” programme involving online classes, printed materials and lessons broadcast on television and social media was launched last October.
It has been plagued with problems: most students in the Philippines don’t have a computer or internet at home.
More than 80 percent of parents are worried their children “are learning less”, said Isy Faingold, Unicef’s education chief in the Philippines, citing a recent survey.
Around two-thirds of parents support the reopening of classrooms in areas where virus transmission is low. “Distance learning cannot replace the in-person learning,” Faingold said. “There was already a learning crisis before Covid … it’s going to be even worse.”