Bangkok, Aug 22 (EFE).- Millions of children returned to face-to-face classes Monday in the Philippines, which reopened its public and private schools after more than two years of online education due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since the morning, dozens of children with school uniforms and masks waited in queues to undergo temperature controls and disinfect their hands before entering the facilities of several of the schools in Manila, which little by little resumes its “new normal.”
Within the framework of the de-escalation process, more than 24,000 schools distributed throughout the country today resumed face-to-face classes in an integral way, while almost 30,000 will adopt a hybrid model until October, according to data provided by the Government.
Until the beginning of November, all educational centers in the country must have completed the transition to the face-to-face system, according to the education department, which expects nearly 28 million children to return to classrooms this academic year.
The March 2020 coronavirus outbreak led the Philippines to close schools during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 academic years, amid one of the world’s longest and strictest confinements.
The prolonged closure of schools raised concern among experts, who have warned of the possible effects on the health of students, as well as the deterioration of the country’s already weakened educational system.
Organizations such as UNICEF welcomed Monday the return of children to classrooms, calling it a “first step” to mitigate impacts left by the educational “crisis” and “recover learning losses related to the pandemic.
“As we welcome children back to class today, let us remember that this is the first of many steps on our journey to learning recovery. Every day we spend in the classroom is an opportunity to improve and chart the path towards an effective, equitable and resilient education system,” UNICEF representative in the Philippines Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said in a statement.
However, the expected return to face-to-face classes was not received unanimously, as some teachers organized protests calling for the safe reopening of schools.
This came as the education department adopted a “non-discrimination policy” that allows students and school staff to attend face-to-face classes regardless of their vaccination status. The rate of inoculations in the country remains well below what is recommended by health authorities.
According to data released Friday by the department, only 19 percent of schoolchildren in the Philippines have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, while 92 percent of education workers have completed the immunization schedule. This is at a time the country suffers new outbreaks due to the emergence of new variants.
To date, the Philippines, with some 110.2 million inhabitants, has registered more than 3.8 million cases and 60,000 deaths since the start of the health crisis. EFE