By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
As it prepares for the new normal in the education system due to COVID-19 situation, the Department of Education (DepEd) is eyeing the review of the Special Education Fund (SEF).
DepEd undersecretary and spokesperson Annalyn Sevilla, in a Facebook post, said that the SEF of the local government units (LGUs) is a big part or factor of the ‘Bayanihan’ system that “will lead the shift to the new normal in education.”
Sevilla said that the agency is “reviewing and will propose needed revisions to the joint circular on the use of SEF to ensure that SEF will be reprioritized, maximized, and aligned with DepEd’s Learning Continuity Plan” or LCP.
Earlier, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian called for “more flexibility” on the use of the SEF, which is allocated to local school boards. The chair of the Senate committee on basic education, arts, and culture, also noted that President Duterte could allow the expanded use of the SEF as part of his power to adopt temporary emergency measures as cited under the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act or Republic Act 11469.
Sevilla, in an earlier online press conference, also underscored the need for LGUs to adjust their priorities given the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. “There is a need for their priorities to change because even the national government is now trying to shift to the new normal of the education system,” she explained in a mix of English and Filipino.
LGUs, Sevilla said, have their own funds for education through the SEF. “This might be the best time to see where our local governments use the funds for education,” she added.
As the entire education system braces for the changes brought about by the pandemic, Sevilla urged heads of local government units, including mayors, governors, congressmen, and congresswomen to look into the needs of the schools in their respective areas.
To help ensure that education will continue, DepEd has formulated an LCP, which will outline school opening schedule, and conduct of classes, among others amid the threat of COVID-19. “We hope that they will follow our LCP that will be presented to the IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force],” she added.
Since the LCP might indicate additional requirements, Sevilla said that DepEd is currently doing an inventory of its resources, especially at the school level. “We’re doing an inventory for our teachers and for our students,” she explained. “We’re also getting reports from our regional directors who share the inventory of the needs of our schools.”
Aside from the SEF, Sevilla said DepEd is also looking at tapping resources from the national government, personal or individual donors, stakeholder and external partners to ensure that the requirements of the new normal in education will be met.