Teachers' group asks DepEd to reconsider August 24 schools opening

Teachers' group asks DepEd to reconsider August 24 schools opening
In this photo taken May 31, 2019, students greet each other during a school opening simulation at the Commonwealth High School in Quezon City.
The STAR / Boy Santos, File

MANILA, Philippines —  A group of teachers asked the Department of Education to reconsider the projected opening of classes, warning of a bigger problem that may surface if it pushes through with schools opening on August 24.

“We will face a bigger crisis if classes will start on August 24 especially since we are just starting COVID-19 testing and this situation may persist until August,” TDC said in Filipino.

DepEd pushed back the opening of the next school year to August 24, but private schools may hold classes earlier provided that face-to-face learning will not be conducted.

Classes in basic education usually start in June but Republic Act 7977. or the Act on Lengthening of School Calendar, allows the schools opening to be scheduled from the first week of June to the last day of August. 

But alternative modes of learning, such as virtual classes, may discriminate against a large number of students, TDC said, especially those in far-flung communities and from poor families.

Not all students have access to the internet or possess gadgets needed for online classes.

According to the government's 2017 National Broadband Plan and to Internetlivestats, which the government report cites, around 43.5 % of Filipinos had internet access in 2016. That means 57.7 million Filipinos who are offline in an estimated 2016 population of 102.2 million.

Mass testing

Mass testing before schools opening may also not be effective, TDC said as students and teachers may still contract the coronavirus in day-to-day interactions.

“Because classes mean many interactions among students and teachers in school, in commute and in their homes or community where they can be infected by the virus,” it said.

Education Undersecretary Revsee Escobedo was quoted in an ABS-CBN News report in May 17 as saying that the department is looking into the cost of mass testing before students go back to school.

He however pointed out that this may be costly since students and teachers may contract the virus elsewhere.

ACT: Five demands before schools may open

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers, for its part, raised that opening of schools when the COVID-19 pandemic has yet to be effectively addressed would only put to risk the health and safety of the education sector and students.

ACT, which pushes for welfare of education sector workers, also pointed out that children of displaced workers due to the crisis are in danger of dropping out of school. Technologies may also be accessible as parents may also be preoccupied with economic work.

In a statement Tuesday, ACT presented a five-point demand that the government should address before it opens the school year:

  • Employ a comprehensive medical and socio-economic response to the crisis
  • Fund and establish health and safety measures at the school level, including free mass testing
  • Ensure access to quality education
  • Protect education workers’ labor rights and grant necessary benefits
  • Conduct democratic consultations with teachers, parents and learners

The Philippines on Wednesday logged 279 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the national tally to 13,221.

There are 2,932 patients who have so far recovered from the disease while 842 died. — Kristine Joy Patag

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