DepEd disavows OVP-led Community Learning Hubs

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
DepEd disavows OVP-led Community Learning Hubs
This October 20, 2020 file photo shows the Community Learning Hub in Pasig City.
Release / OVP

MANILA, Philippines — The education department on Tuesday distanced itself from Vice President Leni Robredo's community learning hubs project which aims to help students without access to the internet cope with distance learning classes. 

Joining the regular Palace briefing, Secretary Leonor Briones said Robredo's office made the proposal to the agency back in August, but admitted that without the president's approval, it could not allow the return of face-to-face learning.

President Rodrigo Duterte had long shunned the possibility of holding physical classes until a vaccine for the coronavirus arrives, which led to the present online learning setup that had since been opposed by groups. 

"Our policy is we cannot allow it because we are following the president's order. We have no authority to announce or reverse what the president had said," she said in Filipino.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque had asked Briones if it was true DepEd had partnered with the OVP for the project, which he said Robredo announced on Monday. 

The vice president on Monday joined the launching of her office's online introductory teaching course via teleconference, but did not say that the learning hub project was being done with DepEd.


"Ako naman excited ako not just with the community learning hub but with the partnership with the teachers, with DepEd kasi I'm sure pag nagtuloy-tuloy po ang partnership na ito mas magiging mahusay at maayos yung ating mga estudyante," Robredo said in reference to the webinar with AkadAsia.

(I'm excited not just with the community learning hub but with our partnership with the teachers and with DepEd because I'm sure that if this continues, it will make students better.)

Face-to-face learning?

Robredo, in an intervew on DZRJ on October 23 said that the Community Learning Hubs were put up in areas where many children did not have access to gadgets or had no study areas in their homes. "Most of the children (at the hubs)...their parents are working or do not have the capacity to teach," she said, adding the hubs were also meant to help "difficult learners."

"Iyong pangatlo, naglagay kami ng mga Community Learning Hubs sa mga lugar na either karamihan sa mga bata walang gadgets; pangalawa, karamihan sa mga bata walang lugar sa sariling bahay para mag-aral. Pangatlo, karamihan sa mga bata [technical lag] iyong mga magular para magturo, either nagtatrabaho sila or wala ring capacity na magturo iyong magulang. Tapos pang-apat, para sa mga difficult learners," she said.

In October, Robredo's spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said that the learning hubs are meant to give learners an alternative learning spcae as well as access to learning tools and gadgets as well as photocopying machines and printers. "There are volunteer tutors at each learning hub who can keep an eye on the students's needs for their studies," he also said in Filipino.

He added that the Department of Education was informed of each step towards the launch of the learning hub. "And to maintain the safety of our learners and tutors, we ensure the strict implementation of safety protocols in the learning hubs," he said.

Victor Javena, chief education supervisor of the Pasig City DepEd Schools Division Office, said in a ONE News report on the launch that the program identified learners whose parents were not as able to help their children with the lesson modules.

Briones: OVP coordinated with local government units

Briones said the OVP directly coordinated with local governments for the project that was launched in late October and which now has sites in Pasig, Caloocan, and Taytay in Rizal, Negros Occidental, Lucena City and Tabaco City as well as in Albay.

The first community learning hub was opened in Pasig, but Briones said it was not approved by the division superintendent of the city. She said another hub, in Caloocan, does not have DepEd approval either. 

"OVP was in touch with the barangay in Taytay, Rizal but DepEd was not involved because, on record, there is no such agreement or approval. The president's policy remains that there would be no face-to-face sessions," Briones said in Filipino.

Tensions recently peaked between the Palace and the OVP after Duterte incorrectly claimed that Robredo was behind calls for his whereabouts amid the recent typhoons that hit the country as government faced criticism for its disaster response. In his anger, Duterte lashed out at Robredo with sexist remarks and by calling her "mahina" or weak.

DepEd studying resumption of on-site learning

In the same briefing, the education chief told reporters that the agency is reviewing the possibility of resuming physical classes in selected areas, as foreign drug makers report significant progress on developing possible COVID-19 vaccines. 

"Definitely not this year and until the president makes the announcement, but we are preparing a report on the current experience," she said. "It is also clear that if face-to-face learning will resume, it will be in very limited areas which are absolutely safe." 

Briones added that conditions will have to come and be approved by the health department as well as the multi-agency coronavirus task force.

Over 25 million Filipino students have so far enrolled for the present school year that began in October, short of at least 2 million from the 27.7 million learners in 2019.

DepEd has said that it would accept late enrollees until November 21.



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