TAGKAWAYAN, Philippines, The Philippines, on February 23 - A brightly decorated wooden trolley smashes down a little-used rail track in the southern Philippines, carrying four young teachers, one on the front and another on the back.
The tiny, mobile school comes along three times a week, bringing education to poor children near the city of Tagkawayan as the COVID-19 epidemic prevents schools from closing in many parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago.
"It's vital that we do this, especially if there is a pandemic in the country, and the children cannot do face-to-face learning," said Shaira Berdin, one of nine volunteers who operate the trolley, in a conversation where kids stroll in the grass by the railway track, thumbing through English books.
Tagkawayan is a town of about 54,000 people in Quezon, a municipality located at 176 km (110 miles) southeast of Manila.
Alongside poor educational quality, remote learners in the Philippines have been confronted by a lack of computers, phones, and internet. Some children have had to climb onto roofs to obtain data signals.
As they go on their journey, volunteers prepare math and reading for over 60 children. They started their project in November and have collected study materials from donations to help them perform their tasks.
The teachers remove the trolley from the tracks, allowing the use of the whiteboard for spelling lessons, and then go on to counting using flashcards. This also leaves the tracks unoccupied for other users.
"The majority of these volunteers are from poor backgrounds, which they have also experienced difficulties in life," says a 26-year-old teacher.
In November, the Philippines had a gradual reopening of schools, following a 20-month delay. The school of almost 27 million children was hampered.
The country has recorded more than 3.6 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 55,000 fatalities in its daily case count in February. It reopened to tourists after a daily case count fell from a height of more than 33,000 to 1,500 in September.