There is money in holding classes
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - October 28, 2020 - 12:00am

I normally do not agree with the positions taken by the leftist Alliance of Concerned Teachers. But I am one with the group when it slammed the recent purchase by the Department of Education of 254 Mitsubishi Strada pickup trucks for P527 million. The vehicles, costing P1.5 million each, are ostensibly for use by DepEd field engineers when inspecting school building projects. That is if there are such projects at all.

In a statement, ACT said, “We are anguished with this insensible use of education money, especially when our teachers shoulder the cost for bond paper, ink, devices and internet connectivity needed just to make modular and online learning happen amid the pandemic.” Amen, I say to that. That the purchases were made, as the DepEd says, prior to the pandemic does not excuse it from being insensitive and profligate.

Why DepEd field engineers need to ride like royalty just for doing the jobs they are paid to do, the department did not say. Field engineers could just have ridden tricycles just like ordinary teachers whose far-flung assignments do not deter them from making daily sacrifices in the name of education. And, of course, neither is the department saying who got the commissions from the vehicle purchases.

This, I think, is one of the reasons why, despite all the dangers and uncertainties of the times, the DepEd insisted against the dictates of science and prudence and ordered the resumption of classes. Without classes, there are no extravagant purchases to be made. Without purchases, there can be no commissions. In a pandemic, unspent budgets might be pulled and diverted toward more sensible and urgent expenditures.

That the DepEd refused to lay back in favor of pandemic concerns because it did not want Filipino students to fall behind by a year is a big fat lie. While it is true that resuming classes will allow the Philippines to keep up with its academic schedules, it does not follow that it can keep up with the learning levels corresponding to such schedules. Mothers are doing the schooling from error-filled modules that do not match the curriculum.

And since DepEd insisted on holding classes under very difficult, unfavorable and haphazard circumstances, it would be very unconscionable and unfair for it to fail even a single student. The department will have to pass and graduate everyone even if they learn absolutely nothing from the forced environment to which they had been thrust.

In effect, the DepEd is merely kicking the can down the street. Never mind if everything is pro forma so long as school calendars suffer no delays and schedules are not messed up. Anyway, what becomes of students when they graduate is their own lookout. By the time they start looking for jobs and cannot land anything for being subpar, they shall have passed on to become problems of the Department of Labor, not the DepEd's any longer.

Meanwhile, with new and even bigger budgets for spending and buying justified by the holding of classes, it will be happy days as usual at DepEd despite the ongoing pandemic. Oh yes, the pandemic. Lest we forget, it is still very much around, with signs of a resurgence now swamping Europe and elsewhere. If, heaven forbid, a second wave kicks in to affect classes, can we guillotine a few heads at the DepEd? Please?

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