Teachers’ rep blasts DepEd: Optional masking dangerous amid cramped classrooms
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education (DepEd) policy allowing the optional wearing of masks inside schools would be dangerous to students and teachers, especially for those attending classes in cramped classrooms, a party-list group representative warned on Thursday.
In a statement, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Rep. France Castro said that it appears DepEd is removing the bare minimum standard of protection inside educational institutions — on top of not providing funds for assisting COVID-19 positive teachers and students and for COVID-19 testing every week.
“The DepEd should at least implement minimum health standards in schools, especially wearing face masks, since it cannot even provide adequate facilities to implement proper social distancing. Cramped classrooms also fail to provide proper ventilation,” Castro said.
“The government refuses to provide teachers and students adequate funds for free treatment in case of positive cases of COVID-19 in schools, it refuses to provide weekly testing for teachers and school personnel, there are no school nurses or adequate clinics in schools, now it allows the optional wearing of face masks in schools, removing the bare minimum of health standards in schools to protect teachers and students from the COVID pandemic,” she added.
Before the government even thinks of going mask-less inside schools, Castro believes the issue of inadequate — or lack of — health facilities and health professionals in schools, along with ventilation problems, should be addressed first.
“The government must first address the overcrowding in classrooms, the lack of school health facilities and school nurses, the poor ventilation in classrooms, and the lack of a medical fund for infected teachers and personnel before doing away with face masks,” she said.
“Ensuring a safe school environment not only protects teachers and students from diseases, but it also improves the quality of education our students receive and a safer work environment for teachers and school personnel,” she noted.
The lawmaker made the remarks a day after DepEd officials confirmed that school officials would adhere with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s Executive Order (EO) No. 7, which makes the wearing of face masks even in indoor settings optional.
Marcos signed the EO last October 28, days after Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco brought up the topic after a cabinet meeting.
Frasco, during a briefing last October 25, said that the general direction of the administration is to eventually lift restrictions in the country to be at par with other Asean neighbors who have attracted higher tourism numbers.
Under the new policy, masks would only be required inside public transportation and healthcare facilities
However, some health experts raised concerns as to whether the time is ripe for going mask-less, as the country may have been unintentionally underreporting COVID-19 cases because rapid antigen tests results are not included in the tally.
This, in turn, gives a false sense of security about COVID-19 cases going down.
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