MANILA (Reuters) - With schools in the Philippines only due to reopen when a vaccine for COVID-19 has been found, educational authorities are racing to devise a distance learning regime for 27 million children by August, when the summer holidays end.
That poses a huge challenge in a archipelago nation of 107 million, where many households have no access to the internet or a computer, and teachers fear they will not be ready to roll out remote learning in two months.
Duterte last month said resuming face-to-face classes without a vaccine for COVID-19 “spells disaster”.
Elsewhere in the world, schools are starting to reopen for students with social distancing regimes to keep infection rates down, and amid fears about children missing out on weeks of their education.
However, Duterte’s education secretary, Leonor Briones, is confident alternative approaches can work until a vaccine is developed.
“The president cares about our students, he told us to find other ways (to teach) besides students going back to school,” Briones said in an online media briefing.
She said the department was laying the groundwork for a different kind of learning using technology including radio, television, online classes and modular learning.
More than 1,000 people in the Philippines have died due to COVID-19 and nearly 23,000 have been infected. Briones, 79, has herself recovered from COVID-19.
There are more than 100 potential vaccines being developed globally, but most estimate it would be at least a year before any are ready for deployment.
Reporting by Adrian Portugal; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Alexandra Hudson