‘Safety first’: Youth group reiterates measures for safe resumption of in-person classes

Published February 23, 2021, 3:50 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

No efforts to return to a “normal” setup must be made without the safety of students being the primary consideration, an activist youth group said.

(AFP Photo / File photo / MANILA BULLETIN)

The Samahan Ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) said that with the increase in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, ensuring the safety of the students should be of utmost priority of the government.

“Throwing students back into schools right now would simply be asking them to get infected with COVID-19,” SPARK said in a statement issued Feb. 21.

The group furthered that “all students must first be vaccinated [and] schools and their environments should first be retrofitted in order to ensure the safety of the students, teachers, and workers – and all without charging the students a single centavo.”

In a separate statement issued Feb. 19, SPARK also called out the government for “ignoring” other problems that would affect the safety of the students from COVID-19 – as well as their families and their own home environments.

Aside from better infrastructure and facilities in schools by allocating more budget in the retrofitting of schools and their surrounding environment to create a “truly safe” learning environment, SPARK is also calling for an efficient implementation of mass testing and contact tracing among students, teachers, and other employees, as well as their prioritization for vaccination efforts.

Meanwhile, SPARK said that it will continue to push for key reforms in the education sector’s “new normal” to adapt to the changing environment.

In the previous months, SPARK has launched multiple campaigns regarding distance learning – including multiple calls for a nationwide academic break in the wake of the “failure” of the distance learning scheme.

President Duterte has once again rejected the recommendation of the Department of Education (DepEd) conduct of face-to-face classes.

However, Spokesperson Harry Roque said that this might still be possible in August in areas with low COVID-19 cases given that the government’s vaccination program will be implemented as planned.