By Argyll Geducos
Malacañang said there was a need to suspend classes for as long as possible in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In an interview on ANC, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, citing health experts, said young people, especially those going to school, have the most contact with the vulnerable population, including the elderly.
However, he acknowledged that the suspension of classes will be taking a toll on private schools that rely on tuition fees.
“That’s why there’s unanimity among all experts that classes be suspended for as long as we could, considering also the plight of private school owners because we know that, like the rest of the economy, we have to eventually open them,” he said Wednesday.
“But as far as epidemiology is concerned, the worst ‘carriers’ are actually the school-going age of young people,” he added.
The Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has recommended that the next school year should start in September. However, the government decided to let the Department of Education (DepEd) have the final say on the matter.
Under Republic Act No. 7977, the school year shall start on the first Monday of June but not later than the last day of August.
Despite the law being very clear, Roque believes that moving the opening of classes to September will not be a big issue.
“DepEd was given the final say on the matter because there is a prevailing law now which says that classes must start, at the latest, in the last week of August. But I don’t think there’s much of a difference because we’re only talking of one week so I think that could be threshed out,” he said.
“There will be no classes this June for grade school but for higher education institutes, they can have skeletal forces but only to finish the academic year and to consider alternative learning,” he added.
Roque, a former professor at the University of the Philippines, had earlier said that part-time college instructors and private schools can apply for the emergency subsidy program of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) since they are the ones affected by the effects of COVID-19 on the education sector.
“Sa gobyerno po eh kahit anong mangyari eh tuluy-tuloy naman ang suweldo natin (For us in the government, no matter what happens, we will get our salary)… we’re covered by the government salaries standardization law,” he said.
“Ang inaalala ko po talaga iyong mga tinatawag na part-timers, iyong mga per class, per hour na sumusuweldo. Iyong mga hindi po regular na empleyado ng mga pribadong mga eskuwelahan, talagang wala pong sasahurin iyan kapag wala pong turo (I’m worried about the part-timers who are paid per hour. Those who are not regular employees of private schools. They really won’t be getting anything if they don’t have classes),” he added.
Metro Manila and other high-risk areas in the country are under an enhanced community quarantine until May 15. Some universities like the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) opted to pass all of its students this school year.