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Century-old Catholic school to close in the Philippines

Covid-19 proves final nail in the coffin for College of the Holy Spirit in Manila

Century-old Catholic school to close in the Philippines

The 107-year-old College of the Holy Spirit is set to close due to falling student numbers brought about by Covid-19 and government education policy. (Photo: Jire Carreon) 

A 107-year-old Catholic school in the Philippine capital Manila is to close because of the impacts caused by the coronavirus pandemic and government policies which have seriously affected enrollment and how classes are conducted.

The College of the Holy Spirit (CHSM) said the pandemic had brought “great complexity” to the school’s enrollment process and online classes.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation. The reduction or loss in family incomes, mobility restrictions and social distancing requirements, and the new demands of distance learning have adversely affected enrollment, not only in CHSM but at most private schools as well,” said Sister Carmelita Victoria, the provincial of the religious congregation managing the school.

The college is managed by the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, one of three congregations founded by German-Dutch St. Arnold Janssen, founder of the Society of the Divine Word.

The congregation founded the college in 1913 at the invitation of Jeremias Harty, the late American archbishop of Manila.

Formerly an all-girls institution, the school began accepting male students in 2005.

Sister Victoria said the decision to close was the result of a “deep and prayerful” process of consulting church authorities, administrators and the school’s alumni.

“We are now even more convinced that the Holy Spirit is speaking clearly to us through the signs of the times, compelling us to make this extremely difficult decision: to close CHSM at the end of the academic year 2021-22,” Sister Victoria said in a statement.

The school has experienced problems yet survived over the last 10 years, but coronavirus became the deciding factor.

"In the last 10 years the challenges facing the CHSM and the wider education sector have become increasingly complex, making it difficult for the school to attract new students and ramp up enrolment to make it viable,” Sister Victoria added.

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She said the free tuition policy at local universities and colleges in the Philippines was one such problem.

In 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act that gave a full tuition subsidy to first-year students in 112 state universities including 78 local colleges. The College of the Holy Spirit was among them.

Another reason cited by the school was the competitive salary teachers received in government schools that made teaching in private institutions less attractive.

“Private education has faced an increasingly challenging environment resulting from a significant increase in public school teachers’ salaries compared to their private school counterparts,” Sister Victoria said.

The Department of Education said that as of October 2020, 865 private schools had closed and filed for bankruptcy due to poor enrollment figures.

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