Students urge termination of current semester, suspension of online classes
Clockwise from upper left: De La Salle University, University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, and Ateneo de Manila University., Jeffrey U. Pioquinto, UST website
Students urge termination of current semester, suspension of online classes
Ratziel San Juan ( - April 10, 2020 - 5:07pm

MANILA, Philippines — An organization of university student councils on Friday called for the immediate termination of the current academic semester amid the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines, rather than extending the semester or continuing it through online classes.

The National Union of Students of the Philippines said that ending the semester is the most inclusive option for college students compared to other alternatives proposed or already being implemented in higher education institutions during the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine in effect until April 30.

It also called for the “mass promotion” of students, including the clearance of eligible students to graduate, as well as the refunding of unused school fees to ease the financial burden of affected families.

“Quality education is in everyone’s interests. Our call to end the semester and to promote students en masse does not need to set this aside. We enjoin schools to offer audit classes and modules once the crisis has been surmounted, and it also follows that phasing ang curricula will need to be adjusted accordingly,” the NUSP said in a Friday statement.

“The crisis makes no exemptions. Students stand on the same side as everyone on the receiving end of financial, psychological, and emotional stress brought about by the pandemic. To add academic stress to the pile would only make for a burden even more difficult to bear.”

Under the Commission on Higher Education's COVID-19 Advisory 3, tertiary education institutions must "deploy available distance learning, e-learning, and other alternative modes of delivery in lieu of residential learning if they have the resources to do so"

Citing the experiences of affected universities in Luzon, however, the NUSP echoed concerns that online classes are not accessible for students without stable or any internet connection at home.

“Online learning, meanwhile, does not guarantee quality education and excludes those without stable internet access and classes disregard the varying resources among students,” their statement read.

It also said that an academic term extension is not feasible for schools with a trimestral rather than semestral schedule.

“On the other hand, extending the semester entails uncertainty, especially since the peak of the crisis remains unpredictable, though a study by the University of the Philippines COVID-19 pandemic response team pegged it to happen between April and June.”

RELATED: COVID-19 strategy: Here's how Philippines can combat the pandemic, according to a data scientist

What universities are doing

Higher education institutions have taken different approaches to the disruption of classes due to the flexibility of CHED’s guidelines, allowing them to “implement extraordinary and swift measures to address the needs of students, employees, and other stakeholders arising from COVID-related issues.”

State universities and colleges are required to discuss any proposed measures with their respective Board of Regents and informing the concerned CHED regional office in the event.

Private universities and colleges, on the other hands, "do not need to obtain prior approval from the Commission," provided that they inform CHED in writing and coordinate with the concerned regional offices.

Ateneo de Manila University, for example, announced in a memo that qualified graduating students are cleared for graduation while eligible non-graduating students will receive passing grades and will be promoted to the next school year automatically.

RELATED: Ateneo praised for decision to pass students and give tuition fee refunds

The University of Santo Tomas went the opposite route, continuing online classes after the quarantine extension until the end of the month was announced.

“While the University recognizes the limitations that come with teaching and learning remotely, including unstable internet access and inability to adequately teach manual skills online, the health and welfare of everyone are of primary concern,” read a UST advisory posted Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the University of the Philippines has not yet reached a decision. Chancellors of all UP units are set to meet on Monday before final approval is granted by the university's Board of Regents.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: April 29, 2020 - 7:51pm

Photo shows members of the Philippine National Police deployed in Manila amid COVID-19 threat. The STAR/Edd Gumban

President Rodrigo Duterte on March 16, 2020 declares an enhanced community quarantine over all of mainland Luzon, an expansion of an earlier general community quarantine over the National Capital Region.

The entire National Capital Region—16 cities and a municipality—is under community quarantine from March 15 to April 14, which means the enforcement of social distancing measures like letting fewer people on public transportation, reduced store hours, and the possibiity of curfews.

According to a memorandum issued by the Palace on Saturday, March 14, the quarantine means that "movement of people shall be limited to accessing basic necessities and work; and uniformed personnel and quarantine officers shall be present at border points."

Travel restrictions in and out of the capital will also be implemented.

April 29, 2020 - 7:51pm

Batangas, one of the provinces hardest hit by the novel coronavirus, has reported no new cases of the disease for two consecutive days.

The provincial DOH Office says the number of COVID-19 cases in the province stood at 91 with no new cases as of Wednesday afternoon.

Lipa City has the most cases with 26, followed by Batangas City (21) and Nasugbu (11).

Tanauan City has the fourth most cases with eight, followed by Bauan (5) and Alitagtag (3). Cuenca and Sto. Tomas City had two cases each, while the municipalities of Calaca, Lemery, Lian, Lobo, Mabini, Mataas na Kahoy, Padre Garcia, San Jose, San Juan, San Pascual and Taal had one case each, respectively. — The Filipino Connection

April 29, 2020 - 5:39pm

Quezon City's Task Force Disiplina has been instructed to withdraw its complaint against Michael Rubuia whom city "enforcers" were caught on video beating with sticks over alleged quarantine violations.

The QC government says in the same statement that the enforcers of Task Force Disiplina have been issued show-cause orders for their actions. They may also be put on preventive suspension.

It also says Ruguia will be released to the city's drug rehabilitation center "in view of his positive drug test."

A police report on the April 27 incident did not mention the beating by task force personnel nor that he Ruguia had tested positive for drugs.

More on that incident here: QC to investigate 'local authorities' caught on video beating man lacking face mask

April 28, 2020 - 10:26pm

A 72-year-old Person Deprived of Liberty at the Correctional Institution for Women-Mandaluyong who had tested positive for COVID-19 died on Monday, the Bureau of Corrections says Tuesday.

She was the first confirmed COVID-19 case at the correctional facility and had been hospitalized on April 13 "after experiencing pneumonia symptoms," BuCor says.

"It can be recalled that her admission to the hospital triggered the contact tracing and isolation of those PDL that had contact with her days before she was brought to the hospital," BuCor also says.

Of 130 PDLs tested, 47 have been confirmed to have COVID-19.

A CIW PDL who had been admitted to East Avenue Medical Center on April 13 and who died on April 21 has also been confirmed to have had COVID-19. The results of the test, done on April 14, were only released on Monday.

April 27, 2020 - 2:59pm

Two new confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported in Lipa City on Monday even as the total recoveries jumped to five out of the 26 confirmed cases so far, the Lipa City government said.

Mayor Eric Africa announced that two male patients, ages 78 and 27 years old, tested positive for the virus, raising the city’s total infections to 26 – the most in Batangas province. The Filipino Connection

April 26, 2020 - 3:10pm

Community farms could be a "short cut" to meeting the country's food needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, Caritas Philippines says, citing community farming projects that the Catholic Church in the Philippines is helping.

"The social amelioration program is not efficiently solving our food security problem however we see it as a necessary short-cut solution," Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, national director of Caritas Philippines says

"Thus we at NASSA/Caritas Philippines strongly urge our government, especially the Department of Agriculture to start mobilizing farmers at the community level while we still have time."

The Department of Agriculture has said urban and community farming is among its strategies toward food security during the pandemic.

Bagaforo says "our community farms are helping deliver fresh vegetables to families severely affected by work suspension in Iligan, Bayombong and Camarines Sur, while a local farmers' cooperative supported by the diocese of Libmanan in Camarines Norte and the Gratia Plena program of the Diocese of San Jose in Nueva Ecija are supplying thousands of sacks of commercial and organic rice to Luzon provinces."

Backyard gardening programs in Iloilo, Bukidnon, Quezon, Leyte, the Samar provinces, Capiz, Oriental Mindoro and Zambales have also helped ensure food security for farming families, he says.

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