“The teachers, parents, and the youth are here today to demand that DepEd once and for all face us and address our pressing concerns. As their constituents, we have the right to know where the agency is in terms of preparations for safe, accessible, and quality education amid the pandemic.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Different groups led by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines trooped to the central office of the Department of Education (DepEd) today, July 22 demanding a dialogue with Secretary Leonor Briones regarding the looming school opening.
This is after President Duterte approved the recommendation of Briones to hold limited face-to-face classes in areas under the modified general community quarantine or low-risk areas starting January 2021.
In defending her proposal, the DepEd chief said COVID-19 has “very minimal” effect on children in the country, claiming that only 16 of the country’s total COVID-19 deaths are children.
ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said in a statement that DepEd should address their anxieties regarding the learning continuity program and health protocols.
“The teachers, parents, and the youth are here today to demand that DepEd once and for all face us and address our pressing concerns. As their constituents, we have the right to know where the agency is in terms of preparations for safe, accessible, and quality education amid the pandemic,” Basilio said.
Basilio said there are many teachers who have been physically reporting for work since June.
“However, the DepEd has yet to resolve our worries, leaving us to fend for ourselves. It is our and the parents’ serious fear that the same will happen to millions of learners come August 24. That will not stand, we will not allow it,” Basilio said.
With the continuing increase of COVID-19 cases in the country, Basilio said that it is possible that the cases will reach beyond the 100,000 mark by the time school opens in August.
As of July 22, there are 72,269 confirmed cases of COVID-19 according to the Department of Health.
“Without much success in the Duterte administration’s poor response to COVID-19, how does DepEd plan to care for its constituents’ welfare? How has it been ensuring funds to perform its institutional mandate to millions of learners and employees?” Basilio said.
Briones said that local government units will be the ones to support the cost of holding face-to-face classes through the Special Education Fund.
The group finds this disappointing. Basilio said that the clamor for face-to-face classes does not come from LGUs and lawmakers’ belief that it’s safe enough to do so, but from the LGUs’ difficulties in meeting the burdensome requirements of distance learning passed on to them by the national government.”
“Secretary Briones and President Duterte conceding to face-to-face classes in some areas is short of acknowledging the weakness of the learning continuity plan in terms of education access and quality. But accessible and quality education shall not come at the cost of safety,” said Basilio.
Up to now, at least a month before the school opening, Basilio said DepEd has not laid out sufficient health measures such as health screening, mass testing, treatment, hiring of school nurses, and establishment of functional sanitation and health facilities and equipment. He also said that DepEd has also not fulfilled even the requirements for distance learning.
“Where are the laptops for the teachers and the assistance for the students? Where are the modules? Where is the clear plan for millions of students who cannot enroll? We need answers,” Basilio said.
There are 20.75 million students who enrolled for the school year 2020-2021 or 74.6 percent of last year’s enrollment turnout. From this number, 19.7 million are enrolled in public schools while 1.09 million are enrolled in private schools.