Duterte says Philippines will not open schools before vaccine ready

Philippine president says 'useless' to talk about opening schools without vaccine


(Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shot down plans by the Department of Education (DepEd) to reopen schools by saying that the risk of infection is too great and the country needs to wait until a vaccine for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is available.

On May 11, the Philippines' Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases gave the green light to a plan by the DepEd to shift the opening day of classes to Aug. 24. The school year in the Philippines normally runs from June to April, but was cut short in March as the virus started to spread.

During a recorded address late Monday evening (May 25), Duterte ruled out face-to-face classes indefinitely. "I will not allow the opening of classes where students are close to one another. Never mind if they can't finish...No more studies, just play unless I am sure they are really safe," said Duterte according to Rappler.

The Philippine president went on to say that it was "useless" to talk about the opening of classes. He then said in Tagalog: "For me, there has to be a vaccine first."

Many parents and students had criticized the opening of face-to-face classes in Aug. 24 as many would have trouble financing their studies due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, according to the report. Teachers also expressed concern that starting physical classes so soon could endanger children and their families.

The DepEd also stated that distance learning methods could be utilized instead. However, this would also present many challenges to educators, especially in the case of online learning, since roughly 30 percent of the population did not have internet access as recently as 2018.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said that the DepEd should continue to devise ways to provide education to children while keeping them out of harm's way. Recto suggested educators utilize distance learning, instruction by radio or television, homeschooling, online classes, and other alternative learning systems, reported Inquirer.net.

Although some drug companies have been boasting of promising results with the early trials of their vaccines, most experts believe a viable vaccine will not be widely available until mid-2021. If this is the case, Filipino students would miss an entire school year.