The opening of classes in the Philippines this coming school year remains an open question. President Duterte said this week he is against opening schools until a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed.
“I will not allow the opening of classes na magdidikit-dikit yang mga bata (where the children get close to each other),” he said. “Without a vaccine, it’s really dangerous. It spells disaster.”
The school year in the Philippines has traditionally opened in June but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Education decided to postpone it to August 24, about three months from now, hoping that by then. a COVID-19 will have ceased to pose a danger to young pupils gathering in classes. The August opening is in line with the provision of RA 7977 that the school year shall start “on the first Monday of June but no later than the last day of August.”
Around the world today, dozens of clinical trials are being held for potential COVID-19 vaccines. At least six vaccines are now being tested on people, according to the Faster Cures Center at the Milken Institute in Washington, DC. But v accines take time to test thoroughly, so the public is likely to wait a year or more, it said.
In the meantime, treatments may save lives or lessen the severity of the disease. Researchers around the world are now experimenting with more than 130 drugs. One drug – Remdesivir – had good results in its tests; early results show 68 percent needed less oxygen support after treatment with the drug.
But the World Health Organization Monday halted the testing of the drug Hydroxychloroquiine – which had been promoted by US President Trump -- after studies found that it actually increased the risk of death.
With dim expectations for an early development of a vaccine or a cure for COVID-19, we may not have an August school opening -- unless President Duterte accept the possibility that pupils and students can still maintain the proper distance from one another by rearranging the chairs and keeping class numbers down. Plus requiring face masks at all times.
Private schools have been given the option of holding virtual classes, but many pupils in our public schools do not have such capability in their homes. Actual face-to-face classroom sessions are still needed in our public schools.
We laud President Duterte’s concern for the safety of the nation’s school children, but it would be unfortunate if they miss the coming school year because no vaccine is likely to be developed any time soon. Physical distancing and face masks for children in public schools might be a workable compromise.