Senator Maria Josefa Imelda Marcos today said she is baffled and furious on why cockpits have been officially opened and allowed to operate but schools are not.
“Has gambling now become an “essential activity” to Filipinos and education a frivolous luxury? Let us open the schools wherever we can and keep them accessible for as long as possible,’’ Marcos said during a public hearing on education issues presided by Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian.
Marcos, chairwoman of the Senate economic affairs committee, maintained that the best policy is not shutting down schools. It is keeping teachers, students and families safe outside the classroom.
“I have been very vocal in urging, from the very beginning, that schools, compliant with high level health protocols, should remain open at all costs. We are now the penultimate country in the world to keep our schools shuttered- despite consistent evidence that face-to-face classes are not super spreaders! Educators can work safely in schools and schools can be the safest place to be for children in a pandemic,’’ she pointed out.
“The reality is that schools merely reflect the infection levels of their communities, and hence cannot risk opening in COVID “hotspots” with cluster outbreaks. However, where transmission has stabilized, we now know that infection -control measures such as face masks, hand washing, ventilation, self- distancing, priority testing and tracing firmly in place can minimize further transmission in schools,’’ she added.
Marcos said that the cost of school closures on our children and all of the community has been profound and unbearable.
“Parents- especially mothers- have been forced out of work. Teachers remain at a loss addressing the huge learning gaps generated by erratic remote learning and substandard inadequate modules, she emphasized.
“The recent news of child suicides, properly or improperly ascribed to DepEd (Department of Education) serve to underline the high rate of mental illness engendered by depriving children if formative social and peer relationships. Finally, the grossly unfair digital divide has irrevocably widened fissures between the enabled and incapable, the connected and the isolated, the rich and the poor,’’ she said.
Marcos emphasized that schools, particularly in the elementary grades, should be given authority to determine, based on the broader state of the pandemic at any given time, what percentage of their students should be educated remotely or in person.
“I trust our teachers, school boards, parent- teacher associations, LGU (local government unit) education committees to make the right choices for our children. In every way, they are our education frontliners,’’ she said.