Teachers and youth groups trooped to the Department of Education (DepEd) in Pasig City Friday to urge the agency to address lingering problems in distance and blended learning three days before classes in public schools officially start on Oct. 5.
The protesters demanded the agency to resolve “overdue” issues confronting education amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re on the last weekday before classes finally resume, yet nearly all problems since Day 1 remain unaddressed – specifically concerns as regards safety, accessibility, and quality,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio alleged.
Basilio accused the government of “passing on the heavy weight of this pandemic to the people,” especially the education sector. “We suffer the effects of State abandonment in the face of mounting needs and just demands among stakeholders. Today, we say no more,” he added.
They said that the government’s failure to maximize the last postponement will result in education workers and students burdening the load and costs of blended learning.
Basilio added that since the preparations for school opening began, teachers have been “sent bare to the frontlines” to lay the grounds that will enable class resumption amid the pandemic – from gathering enrollees, to cleaning up their schools, to creating, printing, and distributing their modules, among others.
“Similarly, households direly impacted by the lockdown and ensuing economic recession have grappled to acquire needed materials for blended learning,” ACT said. “Even students suffered the effects of the crisis as their enjoyment of their right to education has been delayed twice,” it added.
Over the last months, ACT said that many teachers have “emptied” their pockets, used up their personal resources, and strained their health to fill in the shortages in state provisions.
“Previous class deferments would have sufficed to resolve the problems with blended learning had the government shown the same rigor and sincerity as we did in ensuring the rights and welfare of teachers, non-teaching staff, students, and parents, but this was not the case,” Basilio added.
Basilio added that large costs of preparing for blended learning included tech-infra, utilities, connectivity expenses, and even hospitalization as several education frontliners were hit by COVID-19 “with not a few succumbing to the disease.”
Protesters brought with them several bills as they demanded DepEd and the government to reimburse the “Balik Eskwela (back to school)” expenses. “We’ve gone above and beyond to make the coming school opening even remotely possible, it’s now time for you to pay your dues,” ACT added.