The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
About 440 private elementary and high schools in Philippine have suspended operation mainly due to low enrollment of students for school year 2020-2021, which arose from the adverse impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a senior Department of Education (DepEd) official.
Education Undersecretary Jesus Mateo reported that of the total, 88 schools were located in Central Luzon followed by Calabarzon, 67; Metro Manila, 54; Western Visayas, 48; Zamboanga Peninsula in Mindanao, 23; and the Ilocos Region in Northern Luzon, 21.
Calabarzon stands for the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon in Southern Luzon, acknowledged as one of the country's richest and fastest-growing regions for hosting big local and foreign companies in their export processing zones.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Philippines surged past 200,000 on Wednesday. The country has the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia.
The Department of Health reported a daily tally of 5,277 recent infections, the majority in Manila. That brings the country’s confirmed total to 202,361 and 3,137 deaths.
President Rodrigo Duterte has faced growing criticisms over the alarming spread of infections. Vice President Leni Robredo said in televised remarks on Monday: "It’s as if no one is at the helm, no direction, no clear horizon as to when and how this pandemic will be addressed.”
Duterte said Robredo didn’t back up her allegations of government shortcomings with evidence, and her criticisms came amid public desperation. He said, "Please do not add fuel to the fire. You will just destroy the government.”
Mateo explained that the 440 academic institutions were among the total of 14,435 private elementary and high schools that operated in the last school year but have decided to suspend operation for the new school year, which is to start on Oct.5.
The primary reason given by the owners for the suspension was low enrollment as well as the high cost of continuing operation under the so-called "blended learning setup" due to the pandemic, Mateo said.
This meant, he said, that face-to-face classes have to be suspended for the rest of the year to prevent the rapid spread of the virus especially among the young learners.
Latest DepEd data showed that only 1.8 million students have so far enrolled in private schools, which represented only 41.75 percent of the more than four million enrollees in the last school year.
The same data also showed that more than 400,000 students from private schools have transferred to public elementary and high schools for the new school year mainly due to the expenses to be incurred by parents under the blended learning setup such as the shift to distance learning and online or modular-based learning.
However, Prospero de Vera, the chairman of the Commission on High Education (CHED), admitted that the same problem was not limited only to the country's private elementary and high schools.
De Vera said CHED also received notices from owners of private tertiary schools particularly colleges and universities of their plan to suspend operation or even shut down completely due to high operating costs and low enrollment for the next school year.
"There are some schools that informed CHED they would close because their enrollment really went down," De Vera said amid reports that the students have transferred to state-owned colleges and universities which offer low tuition or scholarship programmes.
"For me, they should be given a vaccine. I'm talking about the months of October, November and December," President Duterte said in a mix of Filipino and English over the new possible date for the opening of classes.
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