Gatchalian to DepEd: Postpone opening of classes if teachers’ safety vs virus iffy
MANILA, Philippines — Unless the Department of Education (DepEd) has put in place measures to ensure the safety and welfare for teachers amid the coronavirus pandemic, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday suggested that it should postpone the opening of classes.
“I already mentioned…to postpone classes…if walang security ang ating mga guro. Dapat may treatment, testing at pag-aalaga sa kanila. Di natin pwede lagay sa ‘bahala na’ yung teachers natin. Mabigat dapat ang sagot ng pamahalaan at ng DepEd sa kanila,” Gatchalian, chair of the Senate basic education committee, told reporters in an online interview.
(I already mentioned…to postpone classes…if there’s no security for our teachers. There should be treatment, testing and care for them. We can’t just say that the teachers can fend for themselves. The government and DepEd should have a great responsibility for the safety of our teachers.)
Gatchalian expressed disappointment over DepEd’s apparent lack of preparedness in terms of the welfare of its over 830,000 teaching and non-teaching personnel.
“Very disappointing, parang gyera itong tinatahak ng teachers natin, parang mga sundalong walang proteksyon, di nila alam kung kaya silang pagamutin,” the senator said.
(Very disappointing, this is akin to war, what our teachers will have to go through, they are like soldiers with no protection, we don’t know if they will be provided with treatment.)
“From the teachers’ standpoint, dapat merong testing, meron dapat silang pupuntahan kapag nagkasakit at may pambayad,” he added.
(From the teachers’ standpoint, there should be testing, they should have somewhere to go to if they get sickened with COVID-19.)
While face-to-face classes will not yet be allowed, the senator said teachers are still tasked to distribute self-learning modules to students.
“Sa distance learning, malaking bahagi ang pag didistribute ng modules, kaya may interaction na mangyayari. Kung matutuloy ang August 24 distribution, big issue dahil may interaction ang parents and teacher, at risk ang atin mga teachers,” Gatchalian said.
(For distance learning, a big part of that is to distribute modules, there is interaction involved. If the distribution of materials will push through on August 24, that will be a big issue because there will be an interaction between parents and teachers, our teachers are at risk.)
The senator earlier led a hearing on Wednesday which tackled, among others, DepEd’s readiness for distance learning.
Gatchalian said DepEd was not able to give a “direct assurance” to the Senate committee regarding the welfare and safety of its teachers.
“Walang direct assurance from DepEd, walang treatment, aftercare, or testing. Meron lang general answer na may PhilHealth. Pero pila-pila din sa PhilHealth,” he said.
(There is no direct assurance from DepEd, no assurance for treatment, aftercare or testing. They gave a general answer that there are packages offered by PhilHealth. But a lot of people are already depending on PhilHealth.)
“Ang alam ko may na PPEs (personal protective equipment sets) and alcohol. ‘Di ko nakita yung katiyakan sa testing, pangangalaga at sa hospitalization…Importante na alagaan ng DepEd ang teachers natin. May pamilya din sila, delikado din ang gagawin nila,” he added.
(I know there will be PPEs and alcohol provided. But I did not see an assurance for testing, treatment, or hospitalization…It’s important to care for our teachers. They also have family, what they’re doing is risky.)
Moreover, Gatchlian underscored the need to make sure that funds would be set aside for the testing and treatment should teachers acquire COVID-19 infection.
“Doon sa nine blocks of readiness ng DepEd, ang kulang doon ang teachers. Kulang ang welfare ng teaching and non-teaching personnel. Sila kasi ang gagalaw, the chances of getting infected is really high,” Gatchalian said.
(In the nine blocks of readiness presented by DepEd, the welfare of teachers and non-teacher personnel was not included. They are the ones who will be mobilized, the chances of getting infected are really high.)
No ‘sense of security’
“Disappointed ako na wala akong nakitang sense of security in terms of health given na sila ang gagalaw at baba sa ating mga komunidad,” Gatchalian went on.
(I’m disappointed that I did not see a sense of security in terms of health given to those who will be on the ground.)
During Wednesday’s hearing, Gatchalian and Senator Francis Tolentino proposed the postponement of classes to October.
They pointed out the existence of Republic Act No. 11480, which allows classes to start even beyond the August 24 deadline set by RA 7797.
RA 7797 mandates that the school year should start only between the first Monday of June to the last day of August.
Classes are slated to start on August 24, under a distance learning set up as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gatchalian said that he initially supported the opening of classes on August 24 but he said the “situation has changed” after the Philippines’ continued to report thousands of new COVID-19 cases.
“MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine) ay senyales na ang sitwasyon natin ay lumalala. Huwag naman natin sila ilagay sa alanganin ang ating mga guro at magulang,” he further said.
(The MECQ is a sign that our situation got worse. We should not put our teachers as well as parents at risk.)
Currently, Metro Manila and other provinces were reverted to the MECQ until August 18.
As of August 12, there are 21.5 million registered students in public school from kindergarten to high school nationwide, including learners with disabilities and students under the alternative learning system.
Of these, 2.14 million are from Metro Manila.[ac]
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