Soccsksargen schools open in new normal—no students, no teachers in classrooms
KORONADAL, SOUTH COTABATO–Public schools in the region composed of South Cotabato, Cotabato City, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City (Soccsksargen) opened on the first day of classes on Monday (Oct. 5) in a markedly different landscape—campuses empty of students as the government barred physical classes to fight COVID-19.
Allan Farnazo, PhD, director of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Soccsksargen, welcomed learners and teachers on the first day of classes online with flag-raising rites at the Koronadal National Comprehensive High School here.
“For the first time in (our) history, classes are done as if there were no classes because our children are at home and our teachers, most of them, are at home too,” he said.
“We don’t see the flock of motorcycles, nor the usual parents and learners flooding our gates during the first day of classes,” he added.
Monday’s school opening is historic not only for the DepEd but also for the entire country because, for the first time in the history of Philippine education, classes started in time with the World Teacher’s Day, Farnazo said.
Soccsksargen, or Region 12 straddles the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong and Kidapawan.
In the Bangsamoro Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), class participation under the new normal has declined but Minister Mohagher Iqbal, of the BARMM Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE-BARMM), said he remained hopeful that the number will increase by 20 percent in the coming days.
He said the Bangsamoro government would look after the welfare of students, teachers and parents as they faced challenges and changes under the new normal.
Iqbal was briefed on reports about declining turnout in school participation during simultaneous nationwide class opening ceremonies in Tenorio, Datu Odin Sinsuat town of Maguindanao.
Initial reports showed that turnout in private school participation was less than 50 percent and 70 percent in private and public schools combined, according to lawyer Haron Melina, MBHTE chief of staff.
Although current conditions was new to both educators and students, resulting in the low turnout of students, Iqbal said he was confident BARMM could still achieve a 90-percent turnout in elementary and high school in the coming days.
“I want to assure you that we, in the BARMM Education Ministry, are establishing a quality, balanced and inclusive education system in the Bangsamoro, Insha Allah,” Iqbal said.
“We will safeguard our teachers, parents, and students’ welfare in these trying times,” Iqbal told reporters. “I remain optimistic that the region can overcome the demands of the new normal with grit,” he added.
Amid the pandemic, the region’s education sector has shifted to the alternative, home-based learning modes, where parents or guardians will have to play their part in educating their children, Iqbal said.
He said the new normal would remain a challenge to everyone, especially to teachers at the forefront of delivering education to the people.
Felisa Garrigues, secondary department head of Upi Agricultural School, said that despite the difficult situation brought by COVID-19, students needed to continue learning.
“Although students are at home, they still need to acquire new learning and the teachers have already prepared their modules,” Garrigues said.
Fernando Landol, a security guard and father of a Grade 10 pupil and a college student, said despite the COVID-19 crisis, his family still decided to send the children to school. He said his family had to cast aside anxieties to ensure the children’s future.
He said he was confident that the MBHTE could help provide quality education despite the pandemic.
Iqbal said problems on the first day of classes will be solved in the coming days but admitted that access to the internet remained a problem in some areas. “With or without internet signals, MBHTE will ensure that pupils continue learning,” he said.
The MBHTE in BARMM integrates the functions of the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.