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Youth group: Vaccines for students first before resuming face-to-face classes

/ 06:35 PM February 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Students from colleges and programs that would be allowed to attend face-to-face classes should be vaccinated first, a youth group told the government and school officials.

In a statement from the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (Spark) on Friday, the group asked what happened to previous declarations from President Rodrigo Duterte about not allowing classes until a vaccination program takes place.

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Some major colleges in the country have started preparations for the resumption of limited face-to-face classes: In Manila, for example, the University of Santo Tomas and the Centro Escolar University are looking to resume classes for senior or graduating students from its respective medical schools.

“Whatever happened to [President Rodrigo] Duterte’s no vaccine, no classes pronouncement?” Spark spokesperson John Lazaro said, referring to the President’s previous statement last May 2020 wherein the latter said that no school opening would happen without a vaccine.

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“It is startling that the government agencies and private school owners are itching to resume normalcy when the best assurance they can offer is merely classroom retrofitting, strict observance of health protocols and regular swab tests, they ought to fund their treatment. Students should be vaccinated first,” he added.

READ: Manila OKs UST proposal to resume limited face-to-face classes for medical programs 

READ: Manila allows CEU to hold limited face-to-face classes for graduating dentistry students 

While Spark acknowledged that returning to face-to-face classes is urgent, it should be done with prudence, especially that they doubt the government’s capabilities to manage a possible outbreak in schools.

“A single infection is all it takes for the government’s ill-advised resumption of face-to-face classes to fail. Good thing if the Health department, the Commission on Higher Education at the university administration will take responsibility for it and foot the treatment bills but this is not the case of our inept government and commercialized education system,” Lazaro said.

“If only the Duterte administration listened to the clamor of the students and initiated sweeping reforms such as full subsidies for internet gadgets and mobile load, declaring internet access a basic human right and the nationalization of the telecommunication and power industries, then the shift to online classes should have been less harmful, tedious and controversial,” he added.

Government officials said that the national vaccination program would start between February and March, but students are not in the prioritization list as health workers and other frontliners would be immunized first.

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Aside from UST and CEU, other schools are also looking to resume their face-to-face classes as a lot of classes, especially for graduating students, cannot be taught online or through theoretical means.

This is doubly important for medical schools, as practicum and theoretical application ensures that students receive high quality education.

Last January 26, Malacañang announced that Duterte has allowed the resumption of limited face-to-face classes for allied health programs.

Just this month, some lawmakers have pushed for the gradual resumption of face-to-face classes in colleges in areas under a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), with some senators relaying experts’ opinion that there is little evidence of schooling contributing to coronavirus transmissions.

JPV

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