Schools told to use hybrid learning amid scorching heat

INTENSE heat prompted the Department of Education to suspend some face-to-face classes on April 2. Teachers in Barangay Pinyahan, Quezon City assigned tasks that students can do at home. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

By Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio and John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter

A PHILIPPINE senator has urged schools to enforce blended learning to prevent the spread of pertussis or whooping cough and to keep students safe from the scorching heat this summer.

“We want to remind our principals that if there is a risk to the safety of our students, they may implement blended learning in their schools especially because of pertussis and extreme heat,” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who heads the education committee, said in a statement.

He also called for health and safety measures in schools such as teaching students proper hygiene to prevent a pertussis outbreak.

Pertussis or whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory infection that causes influenza-like symptoms such as mild fever and cough lasting seven to 10 weeks, according to the World Health Organization.

Last month, Quezon City, Cavite province and lloilo City in Western Visayas declared a pertussis outbreak.

“The cases seem to be plateauing, but we’re closely monitoring this,” Health Secretary Teodoro J. Herbosa told reporters at the Senate. “We have a regional epidemiology surveillance unit that is monitoring these cases. Luckily, we have a vaccine for this so it’s very important.”

More than 400 cases of pertussis have been recorded in the first 10 weeks of the year mainly due to disruptions to routine immunization at the primary-care level during the coronavirus pandemic, he said last month.

The Department of Health on March 27 said it had ordered at least 8 million pertussis vaccine doses.

“Nothing is barring local government units and school heads from switching back to blended or distance learning due to the scorching weather we’ve been experiencing now,” Senator Jose “Jinggoy” P. Estrada said in a separate statement, citing a 2022 order issued by the Department of Education (DepEd) that allows a blended learning setup in times of emergencies.

“The DepEd order can be used as a basis by local government units and school officials to prevent pertussis outbreaks in schools.” 

In a forecast on Monday, the state weather bureau said Pasay City and 10 other cities were expected to experience heat of at least 42°C on Tuesday.The country’s El Niño task force on Monday urged local government units to suspend classes in cases of extreme heat, saying students will not be able to concentrate if it is too hot.

At least six local governments in Western Visayas suspended classes on Monday due to intense heat, Mr. Gatchalian said.

“We should continue the education of our children but also prioritize their well-being and safety,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.

The government should build more classrooms and ventilation systems in schools to ease the heat felt by students and teachers during summer, Party-list Rep. France L. Castro said in a statement.

“The current heat index experienced by our students and teachers should serve as a wake-up call to prioritize the construction of additional classrooms and the improvement of ventilation systems in our schools,” she said.

Presidential Communications Office Assistant Secretary Joey Villarama said local governments have the power to suspend face-to-face classes.

DepEd has said some schools have implemented alternative modes of learning.

The state weather bureau said temperatures could go from 42°C to 51° C in some areas of the country this week.

“We cannot delay the provision of adequate infrastructure any longer,” Ms. Castro said. “Investing in the construction of more classrooms and improving ventilation systems is an investment in the future of our nation.”