âBanning face-to-face instruction may be against human rightsâ
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said yesterday the UN representative, whom he did not identify, mentioned the issue to him.
Presidential Photo, file

‘Banning face-to-face instruction may be against human rights’

Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - February 9, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Forbidding face-to-face instruction may be a violation of human rights, according to a United Nations representative.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said yesterday the UN representative, whom he did not identify, mentioned the issue to him.

“I spoke to a United Nations representative who told me that it may be a violation of human rights to forbid face to face instruction especially among the young, who need social skills as much as intellectual and emotional connection,” Locsin tweeted.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said children cannot afford another year of school disruption as the cost of closing schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating.

UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said, “As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as cases continue to soar around the world, no effort should be spared to keep schools open or prioritize them in reopening plans.”

She said too many countries have opted to keep schools closed despite overwhelming evidence of the impact of school closures on children, and despite increasing evidence that schools are not drivers of the pandemic.

According to UNICEF, the cost of closing schools – which at the peak of pandemic lockdowns affected 90 percent of students worldwide and left more than a third of schoolchildren with no access to remote education – has been devastating.

Fore noted that the number of out-of-school children is set to increase by 24 million “to a level we have not seen in years and have fought so hard to overcome.”

Children’s ability to read, write and do basic math has suffered, and the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century economy have diminished, Fore said.

US findings

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian urged the government to study findings in the US, which showed little evidence that face-to-face classes increased community transmission of COVID-19, as the country prepares for the vaccination rollout.

He called on the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to check the findings of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He cited a January 2021 journal article published by CDC experts which pointed out that while schools in the US opened for in-person instruction, there was little evidence that they increased community transmission of COVID-19.

President Duterte took back his approval for a dry run of face-to-face classes in 2021, as other countries reported cases of the new coronavirus variant.

Citing recommendations by CDC experts, Gatchalian emphasized that the resumption of face-to-face classes is possible if the risk of community transmission is reduced and health protocols are observed, including hand washing, frequent use of alcohol, wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.

“If we only allow children to leave their homes, it would be better for them to just go to school. It will help their well-being if their teachers guide them personally in their lessons and they can still interact with them, their classmates,” said Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture.

He said the CDC report stated that during the fall of 2020, 11 school districts in North Carolina with 90,000 students and staff opened for in-person classes for nine weeks, during which there were only 32 infections acquired in schools, compared to 773 community infections, while no cases of student-to-staff transmission were recorded.

Meanwhile, the Commision on Higher Education (CHED) is starting to shift back to face-to-face classes with the approval of President Duterte.

CHED chairman J. Prospero de Vera III pointed out that Duterte had allowed this following his approval of limited face-to-face classes for medicine and allied health sciences courses in general community quarantine and modified GCQ areas. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Rainier Allan Ronda

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