DU30 right the first time!
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - May 29, 2020 - 12:00am

President Rodrigo Duterte had it right the first time when he declared “Walang Bakuna Walang Klase” or No Vaccine No Classes. Let the kids play or do something else. Unfortunately, there are people around him who feel they have to interpret or explain what he already explained clearly in both English and Tagalog! As a result so many parents and personalities in the education sector have expressed confusion over the “official government decision” on the matter.

With 48 hours and between the President and his spokesman, the statement went from no classes to no physical classes to “blended modes” etc. From Aug. 24 the timeline now being discussed is late June or early July for enrollment or resumption of classes. In short, we now have a bag of mixed nuts and versions about the resumption of classes in the Philippines all circling on two points: first is the argument that any delay in the opening will directly cause a delay in children’s mental development. The second is that we need to follow or stick close to the school calendars or the kids will be delayed or set back in terms of school years etc. There is even the argument regularly being thrown in by some that delaying the school year will especially be disadvantageous to the poor underprivileged students and will further marginalize them in their poverty. The general sentiment is clearly for schools to continue in one form or the other.

Because no one seems to be presenting a full menu of problems and opportunities please allow me to do so. The current 75-day quarantine is in place because COVID-19 is deadly and highly contagious, and I don’t care if western experts say the disease is milder among children. That is only good for as long as it is not your child who is sick! The emotional and physical and financial investment in one school age child is already worth millions and to place them in undeniable and probable risk by normal definition of the law is criminal. We are screaming bloody murder over child abuse and sexual exploitation in the Internet, but are now seriously leaning toward high-risk exposure because of “tradition” or social pressure to raise kids right? This is not a choice between ignorance and education. This is a choice between being protective or the possibility of causing a child’s sickness and death. Who is willing to step up and take the blame for the first Filipino student that dies in school in 2020?

I am not being melodramatic or staging a mental blackmail here. If you’ve read Ctalk long enough, chances are you’ve read about “Charlotte,” the grandchild of our caretaker, who after receiving the traditional vaccination at a school in Quezon City fell ill and within 48 hours was basically paralytic. We cared for that child with the help of the Philippine Children’s Medical Center officers and staff, with the support and commitment of then Secretary Janet Garin for years! The battle was first to keep her alive on the first year, help her to partially breathe on her own on the second year and from there help her to get some movement and control of her extremities. To this day, I monitor her personally, we pray for her full recovery every evening just as if she was our daughter. It has been such a traumatic experience I would not wish even on my enemies! And it all came about from an adverse reaction, a point whatever of a percent probability that hit home. But now we are not talking about chances that are slim and none. We are talking about a certainty that one child if not more will be at risk. These are OUR children and grandchildren we are talking about, not their careers!     

I’ve been told that COVID-19 manifests milder among kids. Great! But nobody has been talking about what happens when those kids bring home COVID-19 to Mama, Papa and the grandparents. If we get sick and die who looks after the mildly affected kids? By the way, lets not forget that even now, many parents are flat broke from not working 75 days, incurring debt and buying supplies. Even under normal circumstance thousands of Filipinos have relied on the year-end or mid-year bonus to pay tuition. But all of that is gone! Go down to the barangays where I personally know of kids who almost did not go to school because their parents could not afford to pay for school uniforms (a curse I have been fighting for years) as well as school supplies and projects! Because they can’t implement social distancing “experts” and officials are now pushing for online, blended or distant learning. Bravo…except all that needs PROPER preparation. You don’t just wish it into existence. I support the many variations and imaginations but only after they have been designed, aligned, built and tested, because if they suck then the children will pay the ultimate penalty for our rash and rushed solutions.

The way to go is to declare a GAP YEAR. One whole year where children don’t go to school, can be given suggested homework and activities but essentially chill out while the adults review and scale down the overloaded curriculum for elementary and secondary program, put together the necessary community radio stations that will broadcast lessons and tutorials all over the country with no discrimination and exception, the DICT and DILG can go full blast putting up barangay internet Wi-Fi network. With continued funding or stimulus packages from government, the private sector educators and executives can sit down with public school officials and teachers to consolidate and upgrade the technology, techniques of a single, new and modern education program. President Duterte had it right the first time; they just did not have the details. Now they do.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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