Before disavowing OVPâs community learning hubs, Briones called it a âgood initiativeâ
This undated photo shows Education Secretary Leonor Briones
The STAR/Geremy Pintolo

Before disavowing OVP’s community learning hubs, Briones called it a ‘good initiative’

( - November 24, 2020 - 7:04pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 9:21 p.m.) Education Secretary Leonor Briones had apparently called the Office of the Vice President’s (OVP) community learning hubs “a good initiative” before she distanced herself and the education department from the project geared at students without internet access.

DepEd, meanwhile, on Tuesday night stressed that it has no partnerships with the Office of the Vice President for its community learning hubs which the education secretary herself called "a good initiative" before distancing from a project by the top opposition figure.

In a statement, the department said it was only responding to a news report that said that it partnered with the OVP for the project that aims to assist students without internet access, which it welcomed only "in a general sense."

"We welcome all support for learning continuity, but we sought details precisely to allow us to evaluate the initiative," DepEd said. "It was clearly not an agreement to a partnership, much less a reversal of a standing policy of no face-to-face classes at this time, even on a limited scale."

Education officials added that they are not privy to how the OVP "represented their initiative to media" and stressed that the no face-to-face learning remains, a policy of President Rodrigo Duterte who recently told Robredo not to "compete with him" over disaster response efforts.

The department has yet to respond to queries by reporters if it will order the closure of the learning hubs — which the OVP said is catering to at least 2,000 learners in 11 different hubs across Luzon and Visayas.

Citing official correspondences between their office and Briones, the vice president's spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said the education chief even requested for additional details of the project to "evaluate the feasibility of implementing such a program at scale."

Gutierrez also said that their office had been in coordination with the education department at both the local and national levels “every step of the way,” contrary to Briones’ claim that they only coordinated with local government units.

He added that in areas where the local education department expressed reservations, such as in Caloocan City, the implementation of community learning hubs did not push through.

He also said that it was clear in their communication with the education department that the hubs are not meant to be sites for classrooms or face-to-face instruction, but are meant for students who find home-based learning not conducive to get tutorial support in completing their modules and accessing resources, including the internet.

Gutierrez said officials from the education department are welcome to visit the hubs anytime.

Briones acknowledged in a Palace press briefing on Tuesday that Vice President Leni Robredo’s office made the proposal for community learning hubs back in August, but admitted that without the president’s approval, it could not allow the return of face-to-face learning.

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.

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. — Xave Gregorio with a report from Christian Deiparine

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