In recognition of the essential services they provide amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) confirmed that frontliners in public and private higher education institutions (HEIs) are now classified under the A4 category by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).
CHED Chairman J. Prospero E. De Vera III, in a statement issued on April 15, lauded the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) “for recognizing the valuable and critical role of our higher education personnel as ‘frontliners’ and upgrading their classification from B1 to A4.
This new classification, De Vera said, was approved by the IATF “upon the lobbying of the CHED to make sure HEI personnel can receive submitted student requirements, compute grades, process clearances, and issue transcript of records, diplomas and other credentials this school year.”
De Vera stressed that HEI personnel need to be prioritized since the current semester is about to end and there should be no delay in the processing of the documents of students who will continue their studies or will graduate.
“If we don’t vaccinate our education frontliners, we run the risk of students not being able to enroll next school year or having graduates who can’t take their licensure examinations or are unable to look for employment because of missing credentials,” he said.
De Vera added that “HEI personnel who are required to report in our HEIs must be assured of protection so they can confidently provide essential education services to the more than 3 million students in higher education.
To date, the country has secured more than 3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Sinovac and AstraZeneca, of which, around 1.14 million have been provided mostly to the country’s health workers, who top the priority list.
The vaccination in the country started March this year, with the government targeting to vaccinate up to 70 million individuals to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19.
In March, CHED directed its regional offices nationwide to contact HEIs in their areas and gather the names of the teaching and non-teaching staff who are willing to be inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines on a voluntary basis.
Teachers’ groups and other advocates have also been urging the government to elevate the teachers and other education workers in the priority list for the COVID-19 vaccines.
In a position paper released in March, over 30 organizations also pushed for the prioritization of teachers as determined by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG).
The groups said that the estimated number of teachers and teaching staff in the education sector – including public and private sector – is around 1.3 million or 1,180,000 teachers (basic education); 137,000 faculty (tertiary education) and 11,000 trainers (Technical and Vocational Education and Training or TVET).