Duterte to be given data backing campus reopening in some areas
A team from the government’s pandemic task force is preparing to show President Rodrigo Duterte data backing the resumption of in-person classes in areas with a low number of COVID-19 cases, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) warned of the adverse effects of the prolonged closure of schools on young students who have had to deal with the challenges of remote learning, with a big number not having the means for or access to online classes.
The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) also cited a wider learning gap between rich and poor students in distance learning, on top of huge financial losses from the closure of schools.
Roque said the presentation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) would be ready soon, and that it could also include Unicef’s findings.
“Some select members of the IATF are preparing a presentation for the President to show that the advantages of resuming at least the pilot [classes] outweigh the disadvantages of not allowing face-to-face classes,” he said at a press briefing.
Before school year starts
The new school year is to start on Sept. 13. Roque said the presentation could be made before then, and it would be intended to help Mr. Duterte decide whether pilot in-person classes could resume in low-risk areas.
Unicef said the Philippines was among only five countries in the world that had not resumed in-person classes since the pandemic was declared early last year.
It said many children would be burdened by the effects of school closures such as learning loss, mental distress, missed vaccinations, heightened risk of dropout, child labor, and child marriage.
Neda warned as well that remote education could worsen inequality because some households lacked access to reliable internet connection and gadgets necessary for schooling.
It also cited figures from the Asian Development Bank showing that the economy incurred P1.9 trillion in losses for every year that schools were closed.
Roque recalled the President saying that he would consider the pilot testing of in-person classes when many Filipinos had been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Close to 50 percent of Metro Manila’s eligible population has been inoculated, but other regions have to catch up, he noted.
He also said many areas had been under the least restrictive quarantine classification for some time, and in-person classes could be piloted there.
But Mr. Duterte should be given time to make the decision, Roque said. “Let us allow the President to have confidence to allow this, because [he] is the father and grandfather of the students in elementary school.”
The President earlier canceled the dry run of in-person classes because of the threat posed by the more infectious variants of the coronavirus.
Children are not yet included in the government’s mass immunization drive, but there are plans to vaccinate them in the future.
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