Manila: Millions of Filipino children returned to school as the school year began on Monday, many of them seated in classrooms for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The Philippines was one of the last countries in the world to resume full-time in-person classes, and she has issued a warning that prolonged classroom closures are exacerbating the country’s education crisis.

Children in masks and uniforms line up for temperature checks and hand sanitizer sprays at Pedro Guevara Elementary School in Manila, where classrooms have been closed since March 2020. About 6,000 students will return to face-to-face classes by November. That’s the deadline set two months ago by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. shortly after his inauguration.

Sixth grader Sophia Macahilig says she’s “excited” to see her classmates and teachers after two years of Zoom lessons. 11-year-old Makahilig told AFP she “used to have fun, but now she enjoys it again.” But many students have a lot of work to do. Even before the pandemic, nine out of 10 of her Filipino children “couldn’t understand and read simple sentences” by the age of 10, the World Bank and other agencies recently reported. said in the book. Only 10 of her countries were getting worse, including Afghanistan, Laos, Chad and Yemen.

After school closures in the Philippines, a “blended learning” program was introduced that included online classes, print, and classes broadcast on television and social media. Even as face-to-face classes resume, age-old problems remain. Large class sizes, outdated teaching methods, poverty and lack of basic infrastructure such as toilets have been blamed for the educational crisis.

Ethel Tumanan, 32, a science teacher at Pedro Guevara, said he fears his students have missed out on valuable learning over the past two years. “As teachers, we prefer to be face-to-face. At least we are the only ones who know where our students are and can assess them.” and provide free public transport to students until the end of the calendar year.

On Saturday, the government began handing out cash aid to students and parents struggling to meet expenses, leading to a chaotic scene outside a distribution center. Twenty-nine people were injured while trying to break it. – AFP

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