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Heatwave forces Philippine schools to cancel classes

Extreme heat conditions are forecast by Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration
A teacher (background) works inside an empty classroom after in-person classes were suspended due to dangerous levels of heat, at an elementary school in Iloilo City, central Philippines on April 2.

A teacher (background) works inside an empty classroom after in-person classes were suspended due to dangerous levels of heat, at an elementary school in Iloilo City, central Philippines on April 2. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 04, 2024 12:32 PM GMT
Updated: April 05, 2024 04:49 AM GMT

Rising mercury in the Philippines has forced over 4,000 schools to suspend in-person classes or shorten school hours, soon after having resumed them after the Holy Week break.

In the Eastern Visayas region of the central Philippines, the temperature touched 40 degrees Celsius on April 4. Some government offices also had to close along with schools.

Maasin City Mayor Nacional Mercado issued an executive order declaring the suspension of all classes from pre-school to senior high school in both public and private schools on April 5.

The decision was prompted by the extreme heat conditions forecast by Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration.

“The said forecasted heat index is classified as extreme caution which may cause heat cramps and exhaustion…, continuing activity may lead to heat stroke,” Mercado stated.

Local officials across the main island of Luzon, the central islands, and the southern island of Mindanao suspended in-person classes or shortened school hours to avoid the hottest part of the day,  AFP reported quoting education ministry officials.

Jasmin Calzita, information officer at the Department of Education in Eastern Visayas, said: “The health of our learners is one of our top priorities.”

She reminded school headers of a 2022 order saying they “can immediately shift to alternative delivery modes in case the temperature is no longer favorable for learning.”

The students can be taught through online or modular distance learning, Calzita told UCA News on April 4.

There were 356 classes and 9,222 learners affected by the extreme heat index, said authorities in the Eastern Visayas region.

Meanwhile, the Teachers' Dignity Coalition (TDC) has urged the Department of Education “to consider several measures to alleviate the extreme heat affecting teachers and learners” as classes resumed after the Holy Week break.

The teachers' body proposed several measures including allowing students to wear clothes that are more suitable and comfortable for the hot season instead of school uniforms.

Benjo Basa, a TDC leader, also called for reductions in school hours.

In a statement issued on April 3, he said education authorities “should expedite the transition to the old school calendar by ending the 2024-2025 school year by mid-April 2025 to facilitate a faster transition.”

The Department of Education on Feb. 19 had to advance the end of the current school year from June 15 to May 31.

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