Heat Wave and Jeepney Strike Force School Shutdown in the Philippines

Philippines Closes Schools Because of Heat Wave, Jeepney Strike

The Philippine government ordered a two-day closure of all public schools early this week due to an intense heat wave, an unprecedented event in a country where closures are typically due to tropical storms. The heatwave coincides with a nationwide strike by drivers of jeepneys, the country’s primary mode of public transport.

Heatwave Paralyzes Public Schools

The imposition of a nationwide school closure came in response to soaring temperatures, which topped 40 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) in several parts of the country. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) predicts further increases, with the heat index in some regions reaching a dangerous 42 degrees Celsius, the second highest level on their scale. In response, they have advised people to avoid sun exposure to prevent heat stroke, exhaustion, and cramps. This comes as the country grapples with a shift in the school calendar which, some argue, has exacerbated the situation.

Manila Residents Seek Relief

In the sprawling metropolis of Manila, where the heat index is anticipated to hit a staggering 45 degrees Celsius, residents have resorted to creative methods to beat the heat. Colorful inflatable pools have sprung up on busy roads as people disregard regulations against swimming in the pollution-riddled waters of Manila Bay.

Jeepney Strike Adds to Commotion

The extreme weather coincides with a nationwide strike of jeepneys, the vibrant, open-air vehicles that are a staple of Philippine public transportation. Drivers are protesting a government initiative to replace their traditional vehicles, which originated from U.S. military jeeps, with modern, more energy-efficient minibuses.

Preexisting Measures Insufficient

Even before the government’s call for closures, some schools, like the Jesus Good Shepherd School in Imus, had preemptively sent students home due to the unbearable heat. This, despite the institution being one of the few in the country with air conditioning in every classroom. Educators have noted the struggle to concentrate in classrooms where even the air conditioning systems are battling to cope.

Reevaluating the School Calendar

The shift in the school calendar, from June-March to August-May, has come under scrutiny. Critics argue that this change has left students and teachers exposed to the brunt of the heatwave. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has voiced his openness to revising the school calendar and has cited climate change as the cause of the extreme heat.

Asia Grapples with Rising Temperatures

Countries across Asia, including Cambodia and Vietnam, are also grappling with extreme temperatures, disrupting daily life and forcing schools to close. This follows a similar pattern earlier this month when a heat wave forced closures in India and Bangladesh, highlighting an escalating global trend that calls for urgent attention.