Group eyes August as a ‘potential date’ to reopen schools

Published March 25, 2021, 2:57 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

As millions of children nationwide continue to face disruptions to their education, the government has been repeatedly urged to spare no effort to reopen schools while ensuring the safety of learners and teachers.

(Pixabay / File photo)

Aral Pilipinas, a network of education practitioners, parents, students, and development workers who advocate for the continuity of education in times of crisis, expressed readiness to work with the government – particularly with the Department of Education (DepEd) – for this endeavor.

“We stand ready to work with DepEd for our learners’ safety,” Aral Pilipinas said in a statement issued Thursday, March 25. The group also welcomed the government’s action plans for school reopening and expressed full support to the DepEd in its efforts to lead Filipino learners and teachers through this pandemic.

Aral Pilipinas looks at August as a potential date to reopen schools. “When conditions allow and the President approves the reopening of schools, guidelines must be ready for implementation,” it added.

As DepEd addresses the challenges brought by the blended learning system and lays out strategies for pilot testing of limited face-to-face classes, Aral Pilipinas said that it remains “committed to its promise of working closely with the government in this time of crisis.”

The group noted that enrollment data for basic education show that around 1.1 million Filipino learners did not enroll this school year. An independent study by the Asian Development Bank also revealed that the Philippines loses close to P1.93 trillion a year because of school closures.

Given this, the group underscored the urgent need to collectively work on this matter. “We agree with DepEd that setting up face-to-face classes again is its shared responsibility with local governments, households, and other groups,” said Aral Pilipinas Lead Convenor Regina Sibal.

“We call for the safe reopening of schools to put our education system back on track,”  the group said. “Together with grassroots and youth organizations, and groups in the health, education, transportation, social protection, local government, and public finance sectors, we push for a comprehensive and sufficiently funded framework that ensures the health and safety of our learners, teachers, and their families,” added.

Meanwhile, Sibal emphasized that the proposal to reopen schools is not for the current school year. “A reasonable time frame for preparation includes the next four months and sync the reopening of schools to the new school calendar,” she added.

More than a year into lockdown, Aral Pilipinas noted that “households have taken the brunt of the socioeconomic fallout with learners facing psychosocial and fundamental learning consequences for being cooped up in online classes for long.”

The group supports DepEd’s proposal for a phased reopening of selected schools based on a risk-based approach is anchored on the stringent observance of health and safety standards from homes, communities, to schools, and in public transit systems.

Sibal explained that DepEd’s action plans to mitigate the learning crisis and Aral Pilipinas’ proposed framework are “both responsive not just to the needs of our learners and teachers, but to the entire community as well.”