Remote-learning begins in virus-hit Philippines

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (AP) — Grade and high school students in the Philippines began classes at home yesterday after the coronavirus pandemic forced remote-learning onto an educational system already struggling to fund schools.

The shift to distance-learning has been a logistical nightmare for the poverty-stricken Southeast Asian country that has long lacked enough classrooms, teachers and educational equipment.

Nearly 25 million students enrolled this year in mostly 47,000 public schools nationwide that would have to be replicated in homes and enlist the help of parents and guardians as co-teachers.

A majority of families, especially from poor and rural communities, opted to use government-provided digital or printed learning materials or “modules”, which students would read at home with the guidance of their elders before carrying out specified activities.

Most lacked computers and reliable Internet connections. Teachers could answer questions by telephone.

Grade school student Bhea Joy Roxas (L) uses a nearby store’s wifi signal so she can join the online opening of classes from inside a passenger jeepney at the Tandang Sora jeepney terminal in Quezon city, Philippines yesterday. PHOTO: AP

The rest of the families preferred for their children to get lessons online or through regional radio and TV educational broadcasts.

“The system may not be perfect and there may be issues as we shift to flexible learning but we are confident that the Department of Education would address these challenges,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

The students have been out of school since classes were suspended in mid-March.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said school classes should resume only when a COVID-19 vaccine has been made available, fearing classrooms could become infection hotspots.

The Philippines has reported more than 322,400 infections, the highest in Southeast Asia, with more than 5,700 deaths.