Youth groups slam DepEd for ‘washing its hands off’ students’ suicide

Published October 21, 2020, 10:26 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Youth groups slammed the Department of Education (DepEd) for pushing through with the school opening even when the officials allegedly knew that the country was not ready to make the shift to distance learning.

The Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) and the National Union of Students of the Philippines, in separate statements, criticized DepEd’s response to the growing number of students who died by suicide since the new academic year started.

On Tuesday, DepEd issued a statement addressing the “deaths of teachers and learners” amid the pandemic. Since suicide is a “sensitive and complex” issue, DepEd said that the public should to “stop directly connecting such to modules or distance learning” since the initial investigation of the cases showed that “none of them referred to distance learning as the primary cause.”

However, DepEd’s statement did not sit well with the youth groups who said the department  is just “washing its hands off” the deaths of the students and teachers and is just trying to cover the “ugly truth that they are out of touch with reality.”

SPARK, a progressive youth organization, insisted that the blame lies with the DepEd for “pushing” through with distance learning despite the legitimate concerns against it as early as June.

“They knew that the country was not ready to make the shift to distance learning,” SPARK spokesperson for Basic Education Justin Dizon said. “They knew that there was insufficient funding, that poor internet connection was outside their control, and that the modules weren’t ready, that quality education could not be ensured under their new modalities, that both teachers and students will be subjected to mental stress and yet they insisted on resuming classes,” he added.

Dizon pointed to the high and fast-rising number of deaths – an “overwhelming majority” of which were suicides – were proof that these are not isolated incidents.

NUSP said that DepEd has “proven itself once again that they do not only act deaf to the outcries of the students and teachers.” The Union criticized DepEd’s statement – noting that these incidents “could have been prevented” should the agency heeded the students’ calls months before the opening of classes.