Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong’’ Go on Tuesday welcomed the possible resetting of the opening of classes throughout the country from the scheduled August 24 opening date to a later date as the deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to grip the country.
Go, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, issued the statement after President Duterte recently signed Republic Act (RA) 11480, amending Section 3 of RA No. 7797, known as “An Act to Lengthen the School Calendar from Two Hundred (200) Days to Not More Than Two Hundred Twenty (220) Class Days”.
The amendment grants the President of the Philippines the power to set a different date, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd), of the opening of a school year in the event a state of emergency is declared.
The deferred school opening is applied to all basic education schools, including foreign and international schools, throughout the country or parts of it.
“We will take this one step at a time so that we can protect the safety of our students. ‘Wag natin biglain. Let’s assess first what happens in the coming days. Kahit ayaw nating maantala ang klase nila, importanteng safe sila,” Go said. (Let us not rush it. Although we want that the opening of school classes will not be deferred, it is important to play it safe.)
“Basta matuto ang lahat ng estudyante pero sana walang bagsak dahil mahihirapan pa po ang estudyante na mag-adjust sa makabago at iba’t ibang paraan ng pag-aaral. Health pa rin ang important. Sa kagustuhan nating makapag-aral ang mga bata, inuuna pa rin natin palagi ang interes, kapakanan, at buhay ng bawat Pilipino,” he added. (We hope that our students would not get failing grades as they would have a hard time adjusting to new education alternative modes of learning. What is important is their health. While we want our children to learn, we should always give priority to the interest, welfare, and lives of every Filipino.)
Go, a former Special Assistant to President Duterte, also expressed support for the President’s stand in staying firm in his decision to not allow face-to-face classes until a vaccine for COVID-19 is found.
He cautioned that there is no surefire way to safely conduct physical classes after scientific evidence suggests that COVID-19 is still evolving and continues to spread.
The senator from Davao is adamant that no chance should be taken with any child’s health. He asked the concerned authorities to prioritize the safety of the students and teaching staff as they determine which health and safety guidelines and social distancing strategies are most appropriate for the country’s schools.
As the education system adopts blended learning methods to protect students from COVID-19, Go also urged the DepEd to effectively explain to the public the action plan to address concerns of Filipinos in preparation for the upcoming school year.
“Proper preparations and training must be done so that teachers will be ready for this mode of teaching. Equipment must also be provided especially to far-flung areas. Let us also not rely on internet-based techniques only since not everyone has access to fast and reliable internet access especially in rural areas,” Go stressed.
Go also urged the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and other concerned agencies to work together to fulfill the vision of providing universal internet access that is stable and affordable for all Filipinos.
“Sa panahon ngayon, lahat nagta-transition na to online. From e-governance, e-commerce and also online learning. Importante na hindi po maiwan ang bansa pagdating sa pagkakaroon ng access to the internet. Malaki po ang maitutulong nito para mabigyan ang kabataan ng oportunidad na makapag-aral at makapag-trabaho sa ‘new normal’ na haharapin nating lahat,” he explained. (During these times, all are transitioning to online. From e-governance, e-commerce and also online learning. It is important that the Philippines does not lag behind on access to the Internet. This is a big opportunity for our youth to learn and land jobs under a ‘new normal’ regime.)
In order to extend additional assistance to public schools, Go previously filed Senate Bill 396 which seeks to amend the Local Government Code of 1991 by expanding the application of the Special Education Fund.
The measure expands the Fund’s application to cover the operation of Alternative Learning Systems (ALS), including the payment of salaries, allowances and other benefits of ALS facilitators.