DepEd renews call for school opening
Despite the lack of classrooms, sanitary facilities and health service in public schools, the Department of Education (DepEd) again made a pitch to resume in-person classes in the country on Thursday.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones herself seemed to suggest that the country should reopen schools because most learners, who have been locked down at home for almost a year, wanted to go back to school and learn with their friends, according to a DepEd study.
“The most avid supporters of face-to-face [classes] are the learners themselves,” Briones said at the regularly televised government briefing program.
“We asked children, parents and teachers, and we saw that out of all the children who participated, more than 50 percent said they wanted face-to-face classes because they will benefit from it,” Briones said without releasing the study itself or even its key details.
She added that a “significant portion” of parents were still undecided on the matter, while teachers also agreed with the resumption of in-person learning.
Briones also reiterated the call for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef), which it has been making since June 2020, for countries to reopen schools because of the adverse effect on economies.
“Unicef told me when we met last week: We are the only one in Southeast Asia that has not returned to face-to-face [classes],” Briones said, reiterating the remark she made in December.
But the DepEd did not reply to Inquirer requests for clarification after it failed to find verification that the Unicef did specifically refer to the Philippines which has had, over decades, severe classroom shortages, poor school sanitation and too few nurses, as shown by data from DepEd itself.
In Indonesia, the only Southeast Asian nation ahead of the Philippines in most number of COVID-19 cases, most schools remained completely closed although Jakarta has moved to “gradually” reopen them last month before the emergence of new coronavirus strains.
In response to new outbreaks of COVID-19 in January, schools also closed again in Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, according to the Japanese news portal Nikkei Asia.
Unicef itself, in an advisory framework released June last year, said “in many countries, data on virus prevalence is incomplete and decision makers will need to make their best assessments in a context of incomplete information and uncertainty.”
Briones herself said she would present to President Duterte four policy changes in their original reopening proposal, but the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) slammed the DepEd for pursuing experiments.
“The DepEd is experimenting on the students. They keep on making proposals just to experiment on students’ experiences all for the sake of distance learning,” said Jandeil Roperos, NUSP national president.
Roperos made the remark in reaction to a new DepEd proposal to extend the school year by two weeks.
“Instead of wasting their time on implementing a shorter summer vacation for students, the DepEd should focus on making comprehensive plans to address the gaps in distance learning and prepare the requirements for the safe resumption of classes,” Roperos added.
“Extending the school year is also a grave labor injustice to our already stressed and burned out teachers who will be working for 13 straight months without even the benefit of vacation or sick leave, compared to their prepandemic schedule of 10 working months before two summer vacation months,” said Raymond Basilio, secretary general of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers.
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.