‘What victory?’: Student group scores DepEd for ‘inaccessible education, jobless school workers’
MANILA, Philippines — Education Secretary Leonor Briones’ declaration that the reopening of classes indicates victory against the COVID-19 pandemic has come under fire as a student group lamented low enrollment rates, unemployment of teachers, and inaccessible learning modes.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) said on Monday that it is wrong to use the new school year as a measurement on how the country fares during the health crisis, especially if a lot of students had to skip studying due to the lack of adequate gadgets and absence of a stable internet connection for online classes.
In addition, CEGP deputy secretary general Regina Tolentino said, the threat of the coronavirus is still imminent, as the country still sees high infection rates despite months in lockdown.
“Tagumpay bang maitatawag ito? Sa kabila ng milyon-milyong mga mag-aaral na lumiban muna sa pag-aaral dahil hindi sila makasabay sa makabagong paraan ng edukasyon at mga empleyado na nawalan ng trabaho dahil sa pagsasara ng mga paaralan, tagumpay nga ba talaga itong matatawag?” Tolentino asked.
(Can we call this a victory? In spite of the millions of students who begged off from studying because they cannot cope with the modern demands of distance education, while a lot of workers lost their jobs because of school closures, can we consider this a victory?)
“Bukod pa rito, ayon sa naging tugon ni Briones na naipanalo na natin ang laban na ito mula sa umiigting na krisis pangkalusugan, malinaw na malinaw na hindi pa tayo tapos sa laban at hindi pa natin nakakamtan ang tagumpay sa pandemyang ito,” she added.
(Aside from this — according to Briones’ statements that the government was able to win this fight against the health crisis — it is very clear that the fight is not over, and that we are not yet even winning the fight against this pandemic.)
As schools opened earlier, albeit virtually, Briones was quick to point out that the continuation of the country’s public education systems is a sign of victory against the pandemic, as schools now operate despite the risks at hand.
In her speech during the opening of classes, Briones answered what she said was already a perennial question of whether the department is ready blended learning with an adage: “Heroes were never asked if they were ready for battle.”
Despite repeated calls for an academic freeze — that is, the suspension of the whole school year to allow families to focus on economic recovery and the health crisis — the Department of Education (DepEd) remained firm that classes should continue.
Briones claimed that 24.7 million students have enrolled or the school year 2020 to 2021, or 89 percent of 2019’s 27.85 million students. However, this does not take into account new students starting their schooling.
Due to the pandemic, several areas were forced to use a distance learning method which would rely solely on online classes, and a blended learning scheme where students get to study through modules that would be picked up by parents from time to time.
CEGP insisted that the myriad of health and education problems encountered today can only be attributed to President Rodrigo Duterte — noting that celebrations should instead be geared towards citing hardworking teachers.
“Walang dapat pagpugayan sa gitna ng paghihirap ng maraming Pilipino sa panahong ito dahil mas lalo lamang ipinapakita ng gobyernong Duterte kung paano ito nagbibingibingihan sa hinaing ng mamamayan,” Tolentino said.
(Nothing should be celebrated amid the hardships of the Filipino people during this time, and it would only show that the Duterte government is playing deaf to the grievances of the masses.)
“Kung mayroon lamang ay dapat pagpugayan dito ay iyon ang mga gurong walang-sawang naglilingkod para sa isang maayos na sistema ng edukasyon na sa halip sana ay ang pamahalaang Duterte,” she added.
(If there is somebody who should be saluted, those are the teachers who tirelessly serve, working for a better education system — a problem that should have been shouldered by the Duterte administration.)
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