"Spare education from politics"

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - December 2, 2020 - 12:00am

The words above were from Vice President Leni Robredo. She said them in defense of the so-called learning hubs that her office has created and which have drawn flak in face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Office of the Vice President has so far set up 12 learning hubs where students can gather in limited numbers, use gadgets and connect to the internet and enjoy the free services of volunteer tutors.

 Needless to say, the learning hubs do allow de facto face-to-face gatherings in violation of education department regulations and health protocols. That the face-to-face gatherings involve only limited numbers does not alter the fact that close encounters do happen and therefore unnecessarily put students at risk, more than just being a violation.

 If the learning hubs drew flak, it is only rightly so, and the vice president did not have to go beyond the facts and ascribe motive to what can only be well-meaning admonitions. To raise health concerns during a pandemic is not politicking, not even if the vice president says so. Robredo cannot have been more wrong.

 In fact, by her own words, it appears that if there is anyone who is politicking, it is no other than Robredo herself. Listen: "DepEd Secretary Briones' boss are the children who need to learn, the teachers who need help, not the president. To me, it is true that the president appointed her, but I hope she defends those children who need help, those teachers who need help. It should not be blind obedience," the vice president said.

 Why Robredo painted the president into the picture, I do not know, unless of course she was herself politicking, she and Rodrigo Duterte being in a long-running quarrel. Education secretary Leonor Briones may have called attention to the fact that there had been no rescinding of her order against the holding of face-to-face classes. But that does not mean Duterte was behind the clarification. It is only Robredo who thinks so.

 There is nothing wrong with Robredo caring for the welfare of students and teachers. As a lawyer, the vice president need not be told that education is enshrined in the Constitution. It is a matter of state principle. As such, education is a matter of concern and responsibility for everyone. No one can claim to be a bleeding heart more than everybody else. To do so is, for one, politicking.

 If the heart of Robredo truly bleeds for education, there are other ways to help, as in fact she has been helping already in several ways. Her other education-related initiatives are spot on. They are good and well appreciated. But Robredo cannot be bright all the time. Her learning hubs, in that they allow students to gather, no matter how limited in numbers, is wrong. It is ill-advised, ill-conceived and downright risky, not to mention violative.

 Has Robredo given the possibility a thought that people can get infected and catch COVID in her learning hubs? What happens then? To be sure, she will rush to the aid of those who fall ill. But what if, God forbid, somebody loses a life. Will she be able to replace it? Accepting responsibility will not bring back a life. The best way to save a life at this time is not to place that life at risk. The desire to help must take a back seat to common sense.

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