Zubiri backs class opening postponement

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri backed Friday the calls for the postponement of the opening of classes on Aug. 24 amid the uncertainty on the Department of Education's (DepEd) preparedness in implementing its learning continuity plan.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

"Kung nahihirapan pa ang ating mga (e)studyante at ang DepEd mag-conduct ng homeschooling (If our students and DepEd are still having difficulties as to how to conduct homeschooling) then it might be better to postpone the opening to another month or possibly even on January," Zubiri said in a message to reporters.

He said hastily opening the classes could also worsen the country's COVID-19 situation, especially that thousands of new cases are being reported and are increasing daily.

"Look at the experience sa US kung saan nagbukas sila nang face-to-face classes two weeks ago at ngayon nagkaroon ng 100,000 new infections sa mga batang (e)studyante (when they opened face-to-face classes two weeks ago and they had 100,000 new infections among their young students)," he said.

"Kawawa naman sila at mga magulang nila (We will put our poor children and their parents at risk). Kaligtasan nang ating mga kababayan at mga kabataan ay ang ating primary concern (Their safety should be our primary concern). Education is also important but the delivery of this service must also be effective," he added.

DepEd officials have repeatedly assured that the agency is doing all efforts to make sure that the implementation of their alternative learning modes will be as smooth as possible. They also maintained that the safety of teachers and students will be not compromised in their drcision to push through with opening the school year on Aug. 24.

Sen.  Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, however, found this assurance lacking.

During his committe's hearing on Wednesday, Gatchalian observed that the DepEd did not specify about any programs for teachers, who might contract  COVID-19.

"Ang aking recommendation to DepEd, dahil nga nasa 4,000 to 5,000 ang cases these past days, talagang mahirap palabasin ang ating mga teachers kung alam nilang delikado (My recommendation to DepEd, since COVID-19 cases increase by 4,000 and 5,000 these part few days, is that it would be dangerous for teachers to go out). We have to be flexible in this situation," he said in an online interview Thursday.

"Di naman magiging safe para sa ating mga guro kung mag di-distribute sila ng modules tapos 'yung parents kukunin ang modules sa kanila (It would also not be safe when teacher distribute modules and parents will receive it from them for their children)," he added.

Zubiri advised the DepEd to conduct pilot runs of their distance learning programs to determine if it effective.

"Kung effective siya then tuloy tuloy na at kung hindi naman ay postpone muna hanggang maayos natin 'yong system at setup ng Deped (If it is effective the continue it, but if not, maybe postpone the class opening until we fix the system and the set-up of DepEd)," he said.