Duterte rejects face-to-face classes until vaccines available in PH

President Rodrigo Duterte again rejected a bid to hold face-to-face classes in the country until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes locally available.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the announcement in a virtual press briefing on Monday, February 22, ahead of the scheduled meeting of the Cabinet members with the President.

"Nagdesisyon na po ang Presidente, wala pa rin po tayong face-to-face classes sa bansa," Roque said. (The President has decided, still no face-to-face classes allowed in the country.)

"Tumawag po ang Presidente kagabi sa akin at sabi niya, ayaw po niyang malagay sa panganib ang buhay ng ating mag-aaral at mga guro habang wala pa pong nababakunahan sa bansa," he added. (The President called me last night and told me that he doesn't want to risk the lives of students and teachers while no one hasn't been vaccinated yet.)

Roque said face-to-face classes in August may be possible in areas with low COVID-19 cases, assuming the vaccination program goes as planned.

Though it could not give the exact date of the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in the country, the government said that its vaccination program will start this February.

Despite the lack of classrooms, nurses, and health facilities in public schools, Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Thursday, February 18, renewed calls for face-to-face classes. She cited a survey her department conducted that supposedly showed that majority of students wanted face-to-face classes.

Reporters have been asking the Department of Education (DepEd) for a copy of the survey since Thursday, but DepEd has yet to release the copy as of posting time.

Senators had also urged the DepEd to resume face-to-face classes as they were concerned that students are unable to retain much from the current modes of remote learning, especially those unable to take online classes.

Rappler investigative story published on February 2 revealed that some students are paying someone else to do their classwork.

The issue of whether students are actually learning in a remote set-up is concerning as recent global assessments showed that Filipino students lagged behind other countries, especially their Southeast Asian counterparts in terms of academic performance. 

Earlier this year, Duterte recalled his order allowing limited in-person classes in some areas due to the emergence of the more-infectious COVID-19 variant. – Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.