Go backs Duterte’s stand: No vaccine, no classroom learning
While there is no decision yet if face-to-face classes will be allowed next year, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is now working with universities to prepare limited in-campus learning, particularly for courses where lessons are difficult to be taught remotely.
CHED Chairman J. Prospero De Vera III clarified that in the event face-to-face classes are allowed, it will not be required for all higher education institutions (HEIs).
However, those that want to resume face-to-face classes will be allowed to do so gradually.
“Maybe, we can start only with the health-related programs like medicine, nursing, physical therapy kasi hindi ka magiging magaling na doktor o nurse kung hindi ka talaga pupunta sa ospital (because you cannot be a good doctor or nurse if you will not go to the hospital),” De Vera said during the inspection of facilities of the Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) in Valenzuela City on Tuesday.
According to De Vera, the InterAgency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has yet to approve limited face-to-face classes at the tertiary level. Authorities are currently crafting guidelines for limited in-person classes in colleges and universities, especially for courses where lessons cannot be taught virtually such as health-related programs.
University of the Philippines Professor and OCTA Research fellow Guido David, meanwhile, is in favor of resuming face-to-face classes, particularly at the elementary level as younger children “tend to be less of a risk for transmission” of COVID-19.
“In higher education, this could pose more problems because older students will… need more mobility, they tend to move around a lot, it could cause an increase in public transportation capacity and that may lead to community transmission,” said Guido.
Guido also suggested that classes be done in open, ventilated areas.
“I know it’s hard to teach in classes where the temperature is quite warm, but if I were to teach for example… outdoors, the risk would actually be very, very low,” he said. The research expert said the longer students stay in a poorly ventilated room, a closed room for example, the higher the risk would be.
De Vera, meanwhile, said the Commission has vowed to consult concerned local government units (LGUs) and inspect universities first to assure that they adhere to the health and safety guidelines set by CHED and the IATF.
“We will look at retrofitted campuses to see if they can develop a model that other universities can copy,” De Vera added.
First to be inspected by De Vera with National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez was OLFU which reconfigured its facilities to comply with health standards should the government allow limited in-person classes to resume beginning next year.
“If the retrofitting is good, then we will have more confidence that when the second semester comes in January we can start opening [face-to-face classes] very slowly as the safety of students and faculty members are not compromised,” the higher education chief pointed out.
Face-to-face classes have been suspended in the country since the government implemented a hard lockdown in parts of the country in mid-March to encourage strict home quarantine and reduce the risk of virus transmission due to the current health crisis.
CHED had instructed colleges and universities using the old academic calendar to shift to the new one to prepare for the implementation of flexible learning, which involved the mixed use of online platforms, learning management systems, and take-home packets, among others.
No vaccine, no face-to-face classes
While there are efforts exerted to resume face-to-face classes, even at a limited scale, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has dismissed the move.
Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, reaffirmed his position in support of President Duterte’s stand not to allow physical classes in schools until a safe vaccine for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is ready for distribution, especially to the poor and vulnerable sectors.
“No vaccine, no face-to-face classes yet, that is my firm stand with President Duterte… this is not the right time. In the absence of a vaccine, there will no faceto-face classes,” Go said. “We have to protect the children. They are still young and they will be at risk if they will [physically] attend classes,” he added.
“We should also protect the welfare of the teachers. Once the vaccine is available, the President has said that the teachers and other frontliners will be prioritized, along with the poor and the vulnerable sectors,” he said.