By Merlina Hernando Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) said that it continues to respond to the current public health emergency by issuing policies and directives that would ensure the welfare of students, teachers and its staff.
“This is how things need to be done – government has to continue, education has to continue, services have to be delivered, salaries and benefits have to be paid,” said Education Secretary Leonor Briones in a recent virtual press briefing.
Briones said that one of the initiatives undertaken by DepEd was the fast-track processing and release of the salaries of employees for March and April. This includes personnel under Contract of Service (COS) and Job Order (JO) set-up.
DepEd is also looking to provide additional provident funds to field offices to be readily available. These funds will assist them with urgent, critical and immediate responses related to COVID-19 threats and in support for affected personnel. Upon clearance from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), regular employees are set to received their clothing allowances and Performance-Based Bonus (PBB) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 for school-based personnel.
Meanwhile, Briones also stated that DepEd is closely coordinating with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to streamline guidelines for COVID-19 response.
“We are cooperating very closely with the IATF-EID,” Briones said. “We are responding on an hourly and daily basis to issues which arise from the ground, especially on the matter of quarantine areas,” she added.
Under the guidance of Briones, DepEd has released directives and guidelines to “ensure that heightened precautions” are observed in DepEd offices and schools, including the observance of social distancing measures for the remainder of the school year 2019-2020, postponement of various national and regional activities, and temporary suspension of school-related undertaking.
Likewise, the work arrangement in DepEd also emphasizes on the protection of all DepEd personnel. “This arrangement is guided by its framework on the observance of stringent social distancing, continuity of delivery of essential services and priority programs, and consistency of the actions of officials and personnel,” DepEd said.
DepEd noted that for learners, DepEd has provided alternative learning delivery platforms in lieu of class suspension, such as DepEd Commons. Since its inception last Wednesday, March 17, a total of 446,787 teachers have joined the said online platform, gaining support and praise from teachers as well as parents. However, Undersecretary Alain Pascua noted that “online platforms are only given as an option for those who have access to such medium.”
Briones assured that DepEd remains keen on continuing “Sulong EduKalidad,” the department’s program to address the challenges of quality in basic education launched last December.
“We should not abandon Sulong EduKalidad. It is a very tough, challenging, and exciting task to balance our existing programs with the immediate and urgent necessities at this time,” Briones stressed.
Meanwhile, Briones also extended the Department’s commendation to teachers and officials, as well as people from different agencies, who helped transport stranded delegates of the National Schools Press Conference (NSPC) and National Festival of Talents (NFOT) back to their respective homes during the outbreak of COVID-19.
“We commend our teachers, our officials, who joined hands in the successful return of our learners to their homes from Cagayan and Isabela,” Briones said. “This is an excellent example of cooperation of agencies,” she added.
Briones also thanked and wished good health to those people at the frontline of confronting the public health crisis. “On behalf of DepEd, I would like to express our admiration, our prayers, and good wishes for our heroes in this situation,” she ended.