Group renews call for limited face-to-face classes in low risk areas

Published June 8, 2021, 6:11 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

As distance learning continues to further widen learning gaps, a group of education workers underscored the need for the government to allow the conduct of limited in-person classes in areas with low or no reported cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, students attend face-to-face classes in their respective schools. (RIO DELUVIO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) on June 7, said that on top of improving the rate of COVID-19 immunization in the country, the government “must give equal attention” to putting in place ample measures which will allow the conduct of limited face-to-face classes in areas with little to no cases.

While Filipino learners are able to continue their education this school year through distance learning implemented by the Department of Education (DepEd), Philippine schools have remained closed since March 2020.

ACT said that face-to-face classes, even on limited implementation, should resume as many disadvantaged learners and teachers struggle under the new set-up. However, the group maintained that the government should address first the shortages in schools before reopening them.

Citing its half-year survey, ACT noted the “scantness in the necessary facilities and personnel to ensure the safe employment of limited in-classroom learning in public schools” nationwide.

Based on the results of the said survey, ACT said that 83 percent of teacher-respondents in Metro Manila and 72 percent from other regions “attested to the lack of school nurses in their areas.” “Meanwhile, about half of the total respondents noted they have either insufficient or no clinics at all in their schools, and that their classrooms have poor ventilation,” ACT said.

When it comes to sanitation facilities, the group said that 42 percent from the National Capital Region (NCR) and 52 percent from other regions said that “they do not have enough comfort rooms in their schools” while basic water supply was insufficient or lacking according to 31 percent of respondents from NCR and 41 percent from other regions.

“Addressing these perennial shortages in material and human resources will permit the safe and limited return to face-to-face classes in low-risk areas, which can provide better access to education to more students who have otherwise fallen behind in the severely under-supported distance learning,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said.

Based on its own computation, ACT said that “concrete move” needs about P14.68 billion. “It’s completely doable and needs only the decisiveness of the President to realize such measures,” Basilio said.

Likewise, ACT urged the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and Congress to take “concrete steps to enable the safe and limited” reopening of schools as soon as possible in low-risk areas.

Students attend online classes under distance learning due to COVID-19 pandemic. (MANNY LLANES / MANILA BULLETIN)

This, the group said, would address the “multiple gaps” in the implementation of the government’s nationwide remote learning program.