The dilemma that DepEd is facing today
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - July 14, 2020 - 12:00am

Since time immemorial, June was always the beginning of the new school year. However, thanks to this pandemic, it has not only stifled our growing economy, it has changed the ways we teach our children with the new school year supposedly opening by August, which is just a month away. Since we have never experienced how it is to open our school in this new era called new normal, I asked Department of Education (DepEd) Region-7 Regional Director Salustiano T. Jimenez for an interview on my TV talk show on Straight from the Sky, which we showed last night on MyTV Chan. 30 and Parasat Cable in CDO.

First off, DepEd has extended the enrollment period from June 30 to July 15 so they can prepare the budgets for the number of enrollments and the modules for the new school year. My eldest grandson who was caught up in the K-12 system, instead of graduating two years ago, has finally graduated this year. Except, thanks to COVID-19, they had no official graduation. However, he was finally admitted to Ateneo de Manila for his first year, but it is going to be online classes.

So when I asked Director Jimenez what we can expect if school finally opens next month, he merely told me that his boss, Education Secretary Leonor Briones informed all the DepEd regional directors that the DepEd would conform to President Duterte’s directive that face-to-face classes shall be postponed until a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available. He also said that a total of 6,415,878 million students from public and private schools nationwide are enrolled as of June 8. There could be more with the extension of the deadline to July 15 which is tomorrow.

What Dir. Jimenez told me was that the enrollment for private schools has not yet peaked. Perhaps due to the last four months of lockdown with the economy grounding to a halt, many employees who once had a job enabling them to send their students to private schools, are still waiting perhaps for the economy to be restarted so they can be hired so they can afford to send their children back to private schools. But they must know that tomorrow is the last day of this extension. Perhaps certain parents want to keep their pride and still send their kids to private schools even if they can no longer afford it.

If you ask me, the main issue that DepEd faces is the statement of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte who does not want face-to-face classes until a vaccine for COVID-19 is found. Today the rest of my grandchildren are into online classes as certain private schools have already started their school year. Good for my grandchildren their parents gave them the tools that they need to go to digital classes. But what about the other families???

This constitutes a problem for a family say of three children but only can afford to have one computer. How can the other children benefit on this? What about areas where Wi-Fi facilities are not reliable or available areas that do not even have a cellphone service? This is prevalent on islands far and away from urban centers.

In Region-7, only the island of Siquijor has zero COVID-19 cases…but with the President’s no face-to-face directive it means that their schools must follow what the rest of Central Visayas is doing. If you ask me… if I live in Siquijor, I wouldn’t even use face masks or go on social distancing and wash my hands only to keep myself clean. If you ask me, Sec. Briones should talk to Pres. Duterte and exempt Siquijor from his no face-to-face order. In fact while there is still some time, I suggest to DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones to survey the entire Philippines and find out the areas that are COVID-19 free. Surely those are areas that should now go to school in the usual way.

Perhaps the biggest problem that the Duterte administration is facing these days is the sudden return of our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).  Mind you during the election season, I have heard many politicians come up with ideas to bring home these OFWs as the Philippine economy now needs them as there are now jobs waiting at home. Unfortunately the pandemic meant that OFWs whom we have dubbed our “new heroes” have returned owing to the fact that there are no more jobs abroad for them.

Well, our OFWs are back home… unfortunately they have not received a “heroes” welcome… and in fact many of them could not go home right away until they have taken a 14-day medical cleansing. I strongly suspect that many of these OFWs plan to put their children to private schools, but are now having trouble as they can no longer afford the school fees of these private schools. At this point, I dare the Duterte administration to focus on helping the children of OFWs who have returned to the country and are now facing the reality that there are no jobs available for them.

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Email: vsbobita@gmail.com

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