MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected for a second time the proposed pilot test for face-to-face classes as the country has yet to roll out its COVID-19 vaccination program, Malacañang said Monday.
The education department had backed a proposal for a dry run of in-person classes in areas with low-risk of COVID-19 transmission.
"Nagdesisyon na po ang Presidente, wala pa rin po tayong face-to-face classes sa bansa," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
(Our President has decided, we will still have no face-to-face classes in the country.)
"Ayaw niyang malagay sa panganib o alanganin ang buhay ng ating mga mag-aaral o guro habang wala pa pong nababakunahan sa bansa."
(He does not want to endanger the lives of our students or teachers, while there is still no vaccine.)
Duterte mulls bringing back face-to-face classes after the launch of the COVID-19 vaccination drive, Roque told reporters.
"Sabi niya, may awa ang Panginoon, baka naman po pagkatapos nating malunsad ang ating vaccination program, e pupuwede na tayong mag-face-to-face sa Agosto, lalong-lalo na sa mga lugar na mababa ang COVID cases," he said.
(He said God has mercy, perhaps after we launch our vaccination program, we can have face-to-face classes in August, especially in areas with few COVID-19 cases.)
The government was supposed to hold a pilot test of limited in-person classes last January. But Duterte suspended it due to a new, more contagious COVID-19 variant, cases of which have been confirmed in some parts of the country.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones last week said a survey by her agency showed "more than 50 percent" of students were in favor of attending in-person classes.
A “significant portion” of teachers also want to hold limited in-person classes while parents remain undecided on the matter, she added.
The education chief said prolonged school closures have an impact on the psychosocial welfare of students.
The Philippines is also the only country in Southeast Asia that has yet to hold in-person classes, even on a limited scale to supplement distance-learning modalities, she added.
In the past weeks, various groups have called on the government to safely reopen schools and conduct in-person classes, saying that the current distance learning setup is no longer feasible due to several issues faced by students, parents and teachers.
The Philippines has logged 561,169 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Sunday, of which, 26,238 are active infections.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. has apologized for the delayed arrival of the country's initial supply of vaccines as several other countries have already rolled out their respective inoculation programs.
Officials have earlier said the country was to receive this month its initial supply of vaccines, with which it aims to inoculate around 70 million to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus.