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In the Philippines, overheated slums replace schools

Photo: Tel Aljibe Agence France-Presse Jalian Mangampo (R) does his homework while his younger brother Sherwin browses on his phone in their home in Manila on April 30, 2024.

Cécil Morella – Agence France-Presse to Manila

Posted at 2:16 p.m.

  • Asia

Ten-year-old Ella Araza sits on a tiny plastic box in her Manila slum, trying to finish her homework before the afternoon sun sends temperatures soaring to unbearable.

The Philippines closed more than 47,000 schools nationwide starting Monday, as the temperature in Manila hit a record high of 38.8 °C over the weekend.

More than 7,000 schools were still closed on Thursday, including Ella elementary school in the capital.

Many schools in this tropical country have no air conditioning and students must sweat in poorly ventilated classrooms, but conditions in Baseco, the infamous Manila docks slum, are even more desperate.

“The heat makes her lazy. Sometimes she doesn't do her homework online,” Cindella Manabat, 29, Ella's mother, told AFP from this shantytown which houses 65,000 inhabitants over half a square kilometer.

In their tiny one-room home, Ella looks at her mother's cell phone to decipher the day's lesson, which her teacher posts online.

The apartment, which has no running water, must remain dark because Ella's younger brother, Prince, suffers from cerebral palsy and could suffer an epileptic seizure.

A few doors away, sixth-grader Jalian Mangampo and his younger brother Sherwin lie on the single bed they share, trying to finish school work on their cell phones.

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Another two weeks of extreme heat

Online lessons are not cheap: siblings must drop 5 pesos (11 cents) into a neighbor's wifi vending machine to get three hours of Internet access.

Their widowed mother, trader Richel Mangampo, 43, took out a high-interest loan to buy them an 8,500 peso ($202) cell phone. A stranger had previously given the siblings another phone.

“The heat is terrible because the ceiling is very low,” said the mother, pointing to the corrugated iron roof that she partially covered with a piece of plywood to insulate against the heat. “We have to go outside from time to time to be able to breathe.”

But she doesn't allow her children to stay outside for too long, because the scorching sun is not the only danger in Baseco: “Young people armed with broken bottles fight each other after getting high while sniffing glue,” she says.

The state weather service warned that extreme heat would persist for at least the next two weeks, meaning students could be stuck at home until the end of the school year on May 31.

Skin rash

Mrs. Mangampo explains that she makes her children take two baths per day, one in the morning and the other before bed, “it is so hot that they have difficulty falling asleep.”

Mrs Manabat says her daughter Ella often complains because the family has only one electric fan that must be shared at night.

The mother and her three children , including a one-year-old baby, sleep on the bed while her boyfriend, an interior decorator, sleeps in his boxers on the floor. The front door remains open for ventilation.

“She [the daughter] sometimes gets heat rash,” says the mother, adding that the irritation distracted Ella from her schoolwork.

But Ms. Mangampo, whose the children also have skin rashes, avoid taking them to the doctor because it costs too much.

“We swim in the sea on Sundays. The boils disappear in no time,” she says, referring to nearby Manila Bay, declared a “no-swimming zone” by the government a few years ago due to extreme pollution.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116