Record heat in the Philippines this month has forced schools to send children home for online classes, reviving memories of COVID lockdowns and raising fears that more extreme weather in the years to come could deepen educational inequalities.

Pupils at 7,000 public schools in the Southeast Asian country were sent home last week due to unusually hot weather in many areas that forecasters have linked to the effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon.

Teacher Erlinda Alfonso, who works at a public elementary school in Quezon City near the capital, said she did not know what was worse for her pupils — sweltering in an overcrowded classroom or trying to study at home.