By Ben Rosario
The government’s plan to reopen classes on August 24 with or without the availability of an anti-COVID-19 vaccine has sparked debate in the House of Representatives.
Deputy Speaker and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. has filed House Resolution No. 876 urging the government to postpone the resumption of classes throughout the country until a vaccine against COVID-19 is developed and made available in the country.
Gonzales proposed that instead of the August resumption of classes, the government should re-schedule the opening of classes to April 30, 2021.
A similar proposal was forwarded by Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito as she stressed the dangers that students will be facing with still no COVID-19 treatment or vaccine available to protect them from the dreaded disease.
But Assistant Majority Leader and ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Rowena Nina Taduran supported the decision of the Department of Education to open classes starting August 24.
She clarified that this can be done through online education for students.
“Unless schools can do widespread testing, set up sanitizing tents and temperature checks at the entrance gates, impose health protocols and provide a quarantine facility for the students at the first sign of illness, then they can do face-to-face classes with limited number of students in attendance,” said Taduran.
Reports on the development of a vaccine are positive but research laboratories believe that this will not be available for public use by the end of 2020 yet.
Medicines for infected persons are still undergoing tests with the Philippines among the countries that are actively participating in the Solidarity Trial.
HR 876 seeks to express the collective sense of the House for the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infection Diseases to suspend the resumption of classes “until and unless a vaccine against COVID-19 has been discovered and included in the Philippine national drug formulary.”
“Face-to-face classes would have to be conducted sooner than later if we want our children to learn. And here lies the problem, since it would be hard to require physical distancing in classrooms, especially in public schools, where a class is composed of no fewer than 40 students,” Gonzales said.
Castelo noted that experiences of countries around the globe have indicated that people of all ages are vulnerable to the disease.
“We can wait until a vaccine is available or until this crisis is over to send our children back to school. We should play it safe for the sake of our children and even our teachers and other school personnel,” she said.
Meanwhile, Manila Teachers Rep. Virgilio Lacson lauded DepEd’s plan to tap the broadcast and online media as the means of educating the youth under the new normal condition in the country.
“The 23 million public school students may now rest easy as no student will be left behind while learning in the comfort and safety of their home.
The representative’s proposed measures also guarantee to overcome the seemingly insurmountable task of physical distancing in public schools.