Philippines: Union condemns Duterte Government’s denial of youth’s right to education

published 10 March 2021 updated 10 October 2023

With schools closed for one year in the Philippines, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has criticised President Duterte for being the biggest obstacle to the realisation of the youth’s right to education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Two million more out-of-school youth while millions are not effectively learning, and many are on the verge of dropping out – this is the grim legacy of the Duterte government that has practically abandoned our youth and has tied their future to the availability of vaccines,” underlined ACT general secretary and member of Education International’s Executive Board, Raymond Basilio.

School opening postponed twice

Basilio noted that the Duterte government’s ineffectiveness in delivering education during the health and economic crisis has been demonstrated by the fact that the school-year opening was twice postponed in June and August 2020. In addition, the country’s poorly funded and poorly prepared distance teaching and learning programme failed to deliver accessible and quality education, he said.

The Philippines is “one of the last few countries which has failed to reopen schools because our president refuses to lift a finger to address the school safety situation”, Basilio said. “Many schools in remote areas with no COVID-19 cases could have been reopened safely by now, had the Duterte government worked on the installation of water facilities, hiring of school nurses and preparation of classrooms in the past months among other measures.”

Poor municipalities suffering the most

ACT consultations with teachers across the country’s provinces had shown that distance education has failed the most in poor municipalities. In these localities, schools and local government units have very limited resources to support education continuity, the internet signal is the weakest, and farmer parents have too little education to be able to support their children during remote learning.

“While everybody struggles with the Duterte government’s flawed distance learning programme, it is undeniably most difficult for the poor children, effectively denying them access to quality education,” Basilio explained.

Long-term impact

The Duterte government “clearly has no appreciation of the centrality of education to nation-building, as it fails to understand that quitting on education during the pandemic will only worsen the long-term impact of the health crisis on the country and further postpone the recovery process”.

Basilio concluded: “The longer the schools are closed, the more severe repercussions will be for our recovery. The Duterte government must act swiftly to make amends for its neglect of education. It must do everything to enable the safe reopening of schools and provide all the needed tools for effective distance teaching and learning.”