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Duterte may approve pilot in-person classes — Palace

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Duterte may approve pilot in-person classes â Palace
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said a small group of officials would make a presentation on holding face-to-face classes before Duterte, but the schedule has not been set.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte may allow pilot in-person classes if these are conducted in areas with a low number of COVID-19 infections, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said a small group of officials would make a presentation on holding face-to-face classes before Duterte, but the schedule has not been set.

“The initial reaction of the President is if it’s going to be a pilot, and if it is conducted in areas with a really low number of cases, he may allow it.

But the pilot should be in areas with a really low number of cases just so we can pilot it and see if it works, if it can be implemented in other areas,” Roque said at a press briefing.

“I wanted to schedule it (presentation) as early as possible but we’re working on it. I want it to be an intimate meeting with the President, just on this topic,” he added.

Roque said the Department of Education (DepEd) should not be the only agency to make the presentation because the resumption of face-to-face classes “has ceased to be a purely education issue.”

“It is a multidisciplinary issue now involving the health department because of mental health issues, effect to the children and the lack of socialization on the children; as well as an economic problem because we are dealing with a generation that could possibly be lost as a result of the hybrid (learning) we are implementing,” the Palace spokesman said.

The United Nations Children’s Fund recently reported that school closures have caused learning loss, missed vaccinations, heightened risk of dropout and mental distress.

It also noted that the Philippines is one of five remaining countries that have not resumed in-person classes.

Duterte had rejected a proposal to conduct in-person classes in low risk areas, saying he cannot gamble with the health of students while COVID-19 infection numbers are rising.

Class openings

DepEd has activated its Oplan Balik Eskwela 2021 Public Assistance Command Center nationwide to facilitate the opening of classes for school year 2021-2022 next week, again under remote learning as a result of the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the command center will again coordinate and respond to questions and issues to be raised by all education stakeholders in the days leading up to the opening of classes on Sept. 13.

Briones also reminded parents and guardians of learners to enroll their children before Sept. 13 to avoid last-minute inconvenience.

As of Sept. 6, DepEd said that some 17,967,733 learners have so far enrolled for school year 2021-2022 in the basic education or Kindergarten to Grade 12 level.

The number is just 68.5 percent of total enrollment in the basic education level last school year at 26.22 million.

Of the 17.9 million so far enrolled, 17.1 million are public school students.

Meanwhile, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian is urging the national government to uphold the welfare of teachers, especially those falling ill with COVID-19.

Gatchalian’s call came after DepEd Undersecretary for finance Annalyn Sevilla raised concerns at a public hearing that the agency had proposed financial assistance for school personnel who will get infected with COVID-19 for SY 2021-2022, but was not considered in the 2022 National Expenditure Program.

DepEd officials explained that under the national budget, it is not authorized to spend for the treatment of personnel who test positive for COVID-19. DepEd personnel, however, can avail themselves of packages from the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) should they get infected. – Rainier Allan Ronda, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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