By Hannah Torregoza
The Department of Education (DepEd) should not forget to provide mental health and psychosocial support to distressed students in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said on Thursday.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture, said teachers and guidance counselors must be equipped with appropriate guidelines and tools in providing psychosocial needs of students who are coping with the effects of the public health emergency.
The senator said the disruption of school during an outbreak makes learners vulnerable to stress and anxiety.
He said students can suffer mental stress for not being able to see their friends in school or contemplating on whether or not they passed this school year due to the sudden vacation.
Being locked up at home, with no assurance when they can go out and play, are just some factors that contribute to their stressful environment, he added.
“Sa mga ganitong panahon importanteng iparating natin sa mga mag-aaral na nauunawaan natin ang kanilang mga pangamba at maipaliwanag natin sa kanila na bagama’t hindi nila nakakasama ang kanilang mga guro, mga kaklase, at mga kaibigan, magpapatuloy pa rin ang kanilang pag-aaral sa isang ligtas at mabisang paraan (It is during these times when it is important to tell our students we understand their fears and explain to them that even though they can’t be with their teachers, classmates and friends, they can still continue studying through a safe and better environment),” Gatchalian said.
The lawmaker said the DepEd should maximize its online platforms to provide psychosocial support to students, especially with an extended enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Under DepEd Memorandum No. 042 s. 2020 issued last March 15, teachers can explore the “Online Alternative Learning Delivery Platforms” identified by the agency’s Information and Communication Technology Service (ICTS) for delivering distance learning during periods of class suspensions and similar circumstances.
Gatchalian said DepEd can use the “Key Messages and Actions for COVID-19 Prevention and Control in Schools” prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) as materials that could guide policies in providing psychosocial support to students.
These organizations, he said, provided recommendations to teachers on how to make students feel that it is normal to have concerns and reactions during this time of crisis.
He also said teachers should encourage students to raise their concerns and guide them on how they can support peers and prevent exclusion and bullying from taking place.
Likewise, the senator said schools should foster parent participation in providing support to these learners.
He stressed that like teachers, parents are expected to acknowledge their children’s concerns and provide information in an appropriate manner and at the same time make sure their children are given ample time to play and relax.