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School closures spark alarm in the Philippines

Financial constraints brought about by pandemic have forced hundreds of schools to close, officials say

The Colegio de San Lorenzo in Quezon City of Manila became the latest among hundreds of private schools in the Philippines to close down due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic

The Colegio de San Lorenzo in Quezon City of Manila became the latest among hundreds of private schools in the Philippines to close down due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: Facebook)

Published: August 18, 2022 04:00 AM GMT

Updated: September 02, 2022 07:00 AM GMT

The Philippine education department has launched a probe after a series of schools shut down across the country allegedly over financial constraints stemming from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than 860 out of 14,000 private schools in the Catholic-majority nation have closed their doors since the pandemic hit two years ago, according to the Department of Education. The closures have affected 58,327 students and 4,488 teachers.

However, an official of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines told UCA News that only 15 of its 1,525 schools were closed, and temporarily.

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In the latest case, the Colegio de San Lorenzo in Manila's Quezon City, announced its sudden closure on Aug. 15, the day before the scheduled opening of classes citing poor enrollment and financial instability.

The school authorities issued a statement to notify they would permanently close and cease operations, shortly after receiving tuition and school fees from the pupils.

“We have suffered financial instability and lack of financial viability brought about by the ongoing pandemic and exacerbated by consistent low enrollment,” the school said in an official statement.

“We are sorry about the sudden announcement, but it is better late than never"

“We are sorry about the sudden announcement, but it is better late than never. We couldn’t survive because our finances won’t permit us to operate anymore like paying the salaries of our teaching and non-teaching staff,” the college added.

The college has started processing the refunding of student fees and facilitating the transfer of students to other Catholic schools willing to accommodate them.

On Aug. 17, Dominican-run Angelicum College announced it would accept displaced students from San Lorenzo College.

It promised to honor the scholarships and down payments made by the college’s students.

Colegio de San Lorenzo becomes the latest addition to the 865 private schools that have closed since 2020 after being hit by low enrollments due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the 109-year-old Holy Spirit School in Manila ceased operations citing the same reasons.

“I think it is the first time that a school, rather arbitrarily, closed without informing the commission in advance"

Education Department Secretary Leonor Briones said the schools might have valid grounds for closure, but they should be probed as to whether their actions violated the country’s laws.

“During this pandemic, there was a notable number of private school students transferring to public schools. According to our data, before the start of the academic year 2020 to 2021, it was estimated that 250,539 students transferred from private to public schools,” Education Secretary Leonor Briones told reporters on Aug. 16.

However, she said although financial instability was a valid ground for closure, certain procedures needed to be followed according to the law.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) flagged San Lorenzo College for its alleged “arbitrary” closure without informing the public.

“I think it is the first time that a school, rather arbitrarily, closed without informing the commission in advance. Other private establishments that previously closed gave advance notice and sat down with the CHEd so that closure procedures could be observed,” the commission’s chair, Prospero de Vera, told reporters on Aug. 17.

“We have existing requirements for closure and suspension of programs that we issued last year and there are potential violations to the process that they observed,” he added.

* This story has been re-edited to correct a factual error regarding closures involving Catholic schools in which it was reported 700 of these schools had folded. The Catholic Educational Association has since clarified that only 15 of its schools were closed temporarily. We regret the error.  

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