Will private schools survive the pandemic?

Published January 16, 2021, 5:15 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

A group of private schools on Saturday reiterated their survival concerns amid the ongoing health situation in the country and urged various agencies to also consider the education system— as a whole— when it comes to policies implemented at this time.

The Federation of Associations of Private School Administrators (FAPSA) has been sounding the alarm on the status of the private education sector at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without sufficient support from the government, private schools have been bearing the brunt brought about by the pandemic for months now.

“The school populace has to be considered by IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force] during this pandemic,” said FAPSA President Eleazardo Kasilag. “We are securing health as well as opening [up] the economy [but] are schools also part of this decision?” he asked.

FAPSA President Eleazardo Kasilag

When the government allowed the resumption of classes for School Year (SY) 2020-2021, many private schools opted to offer online learning in lieu of in-person classes which is still not allowed at this time.

Based on the latest data from the Department of Education (DepEd), there are 2,226,292 enrollees in private schools this school year which comprises 51.72 percent of the enrollment in school year 2019-2020 at 4,304,676.

With the drastic decrease in enrollment, over 800 private schools opted to temporarily suspend their operations for this school year according to the DepEd.

In particular, FAPSA is urging the Department of Health (DOH) to be “decisive” especially in the issue of the vaccine against COVID-19. “School stakeholders want to get a firm stand on vaccines availability, efficacy, and transmissibility,” Kasilag said.

FAPSA pointed out the “conflicting” information on the vaccines. “In the news, DOH officials declared February for the first arrival of the vaccine but during the senate hearing, it was declared that May is the earliest arrival,” Kasilag said. “Of course, we are willing to wait and would not compromise our students but let us get the true picture,” he added.

Kasilag also pointed out the need for clearer details on the vaccine because its availability and accessibility will greatly influence the resumption of face-to-face classes. “DOH says, during the Senate hearing, that it will take three years to inoculate 60 to 70 million Filipinos…I believe that it is during [this time] that face-to-face shall be safer for schools to operate,” he said.

However, Kasilag argued that this timeline might be too late for private schools. “That is around school year 2022 -2023, does it mean we do not have school operation until 2023?” he said. “Can FAPSA schools still survive [or] do we still have the private schools by then?” he added.

With the confirmed presence of the new coronavirus variant in the country, Kasilag said that the survival for private schools became even more slim. “It is said that this one even exposes our schoolchildren more gravely so where will the private schools go now?” he lamented.

Kasilag also noted that private schools outside Metro Manila are more affected. “I know they are not as hard hit but they have more concerns about the fate of school opening,” he said. FAPSA will be coordinating with the DepEd Central Office regarding their concerns.

This early, Kasilag said that FAPSA member schools would also want to know the plans related to the education sector in the coming months. “We need to get the bare facts from IATF and the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 for the benefit of our school kids,” he added.