Filipino students return to in-person classes after 2 years of distance learning

Filipino students return to in-person classes after 2 years of distance learning
Students attend a flag-raising ceremony before singing the national anthem on the first day of in-person classes after years-long Covid-19 lockdowns at Pedro Guevarra Elementary School in Manila on August 22, 2022.
AFP / Maria Tan

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:12 p.m.) — Millions of mask-wearing students across the archipelago returned to learning institutions on Monday more than two years after schools were forced to close and learners shifted to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over 28.03 million students have so far enrolled for School Year 2022 to 2023, latest data from DepEd showed. The figure is still short of the department's target of 28.6 million enrollees.

DepEd earlier said that more than 24,000 schools will implement five days of face-to-face classes, while over 29,000 institutions will continue holding classes through blended learning until October.

By November 2, all public and private schools must shift to five days of in-person classes.

DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa said the agency has yet to receive reports of “major incidents or challenges.”

“Mukhang mapayapa at ligtas ‘yung pagbabalik eskwela ng learners this morning (It seems the return of learners to schools this morning is peaceful and safe). We have been monitoring the situation and we’re getting reports from regional offices nationwide,” he said in an interview over GMA News’ Unang Hirit.

The Philippines was among the countries that shut schools the longest.

The return of students to schools comes as the country deals with a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases and entry of monkeypox virus.

In a statement, President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr. welcomed the return of students to schools.

“It has always been my belief that learning will be more effective inside classrooms where students can fully interact with their teachers and fellow students,” Marcos said as he reminded learners and educators to continue observing minimum health protocols.

Safe reopening

The education department adheres to a “non-discrimination” policy for both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and personnel.

Last week, DepEd reported only 19% of students have completed vaccination against COVID-19. Meanwhile, 92% of teaching and non-teaching personnel have been fully vaccinated.

Public school teachers from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers welcomed the opening of the new school year by staging a protest in Mendiola, Manila. They called for safe reopening of schools.

“Of all the many unprepared school openings that we have experienced, this is one of the worst. It is very unfortunate and ironic as this should have been the one that we are most ready for because we are in a pandemic situation and the government had two years to prepare for this,” ACT chairperson Vladimer Quetua said.

“If the government fails big time in ensuring the physical and material needs of education, its readiness to implement a sound and viable education recovery plan is even more questionable,” Quetua added. — with report from The STAR/Janvic Mateo

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