CEBU, Philippines — The pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte Monday night that he will not allow schools to re-open unless a vaccine for COVID-19 is found drew mixed reactions from various stakeholders.
Antonia Lim, regional head of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Party List, said the decision, if formalized, will endanger the livelihood of teachers who might get displaced because of the indefinite suspension of classes.
She said since the end of the semester this year, a number of teachers has not received their wages because schools have not collected in the last quarter.
“Nag-endanger gyud na. Bisan gani karon, ang uban teachers, wa gyud natagaan ug mga ayuda, so unsaon man na nila pag-survive? Ang uban pa gani, wala ma-sweldoi kay wa maka-collect sa last nga quarter sa mga estudyante,” she said.
(That endangers. Even now, some teachers have not received aid so how will they survive? Others have not received their salary because schools were not able to collect in the last quarter.)
She clarified that ACT does not call for the complete suspension of classes for the entire year but for mass testing before opening the academic year.
It seems, though, she said, that the recent pronouncement of the president is tantamount to the president washing his hands off the burden of meeting the teachers’ demands.
“Kang Duterte, murag nanghunaw siya kay di siya makahatag sa demand sa mga teachers,” Lim said.
(With Duterte, it appears like he is washing his hands from the responsibility of meeting the teachers’ demands.)
Among the demands are for government to grant P1,500 of load allowance for teachers to hold online classes, for government to provide laptops to public school teachers, make online learning gadgets accessible to students, and deploy nurses to schools.
ACT also called out the government for the budget cuts on education, saying that the pandemic is not an excuse to cut back on basic social services.
In a statement yesterday, the League of Municipalities of the Philippines – Cebu Chapter led by Liloan, Cebu Mayor Christina Frasco, said it is hopeful the Department of Education can present “an education promotion and protection plan that the Mayors can support” between now and August, the anticipated date of class resumption.
“We fully understand the President’s intentions. The State, as parens patriae of all Filipino children, has an obligation to protect their welfare. It is incumbent upon the National leadership of DepEd to find a balance between protecting life and promoting education with the resources and technology available to them. We are hopeful that between now and August, DepEd can present an education promotion and protection plan that the Mayors can support,” the statement reads.
Meanwhile, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said the president’s pronouncement should not stop education stakeholders from fine-tuning ways that will allow children to learn amidst the pandemic without making them sick.
Recto said failing to work around the virus will spawn a lost generation that will hurt the future of the country, will harm children of poor families who have embraced education as a ticket out of poverty, and will widen the gap between rich and poor.
He said finding alternatives to face-to-face instruction is like answering a multiple choice test and to be sick should not be one of them.
“Let us find the mix that will allow the 30 million children of this country to continue with their education without putting them in harm’s way. Let us see to it that even if schools are locked down, education is not placed in quarantine,” Recto said in a statement.
The senator said that this can be done by customizing the alternatives—distance learning, TV or radio-based instruction, home schooling, modular distance learning, online courses, ALS (Alternative Learning Systems), even radically-reduced class sizes in zero-COVID zones—into one blend that will meet a learner’s socioeconomic profile.
“I have high confidence in the ability of the teachers of this land to adapt to the new normal, more so if they are empowered with the right tools to make a learner-centered adjustment,” the senator said.
“Education should be deemed as an essential activity. Finding a system of instruction in which learning will not be hazardous to a child’s health is hard. One particularly big challenge is how children in low-income households can cope with distance education or homeschooling. But I have high hopes that the best minds in the land will be able to find a way, so that no child is left behind,” Recto said.
Department of Education (DepEd) – 7 Director Salustiano Jimenez said they will abide by the order the central office will issue relative to Duterte’s pronouncement.
Until an order is issued, DepEd-7 will continue with its preparations to ensure that schools and their personnel are ready when classes resume. He said enrollment shall proceed on June 1 in preparation for the August 24, 2020 class opening.
The enrollment will proceed using the scheme that schools believe is most feasible in their location and situation.
Jimenez said DepEd is set to have a nationwide virtual launch of its yearly “Brigada Eskwela” program on June 1.
“We will have a virtual kick off and in its conduct, still observing social distancing,” Jimenez said. JMO (FREEMAN)