Instead of rejecting the recommendation to hold limited face-to-face classes, a federation of teachers called on President Duterte to “work on school safety” to ensure the safe return of both teachers and students.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines, in a statement issued Wednesday, Feb. 24, expressed concern on the renewed rejection of President Duterte to the proposal of the Department of Education (DepEd) to pilot test in-classroom learning in low-risk areas.
“How convenient for the President to harp on his so-called concern on our safety to evade his responsibility of fulfilling the youth’s right to education?” said ACT Secretary-General Raymond Basilio.
Basilio noted that many countries around the world have found ways to enable the safe return to schools. “It is plainly lazy and unimaginative to depend our education on the government’s delayed and uncertain vaccination program,” he added.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, during a virtual briefing on Monday, Feb. 22, announced the President’s decision on the recommendation for face-to-face classes. In rejecting the proposal, the President said that he did not want to “endanger learners and educators” since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination program has yet to start.
However, Basilio noted that ACT has already submitted its recommendations to the DepEd on how to prepare for the gradual resumption of limited and voluntary face-to-face classes in low-risk areas this school year which include: competent risk assessment of schools; installation of health and sanitation facilities; retrofitting of classrooms; hiring of school health personnel; mass testing for teachers and learners; and reduction of class size and implementation of minimum health standards.
“The worsening learning crisis proves that the poorly-funded and ill-equipped distance learning is ineffective, especially for the poorest learners in far-flung areas, as such, safe back to school is their best chance at gaining access to quality education amid the pandemic,” Basilio said.
Basilio noted that the Duterte government also has to prioritize the education sector by rolling out a clear plan for the safe and gradual return to schools of teachers and learners in the next months – and in the greater part of the country by 2022.
“We cannot be duped by the President’s pretense of being concerned with our welfare as his refusal to address the problems of education proves otherwise,” Basilio said.
“If he has any genuine interest to prevent this generation of youth from going down the drain, we challenge him to work on creating pathways, not dead ends to the safe resumption of face-to-face classes,” he ended.