A group on Tuesday, June 22, slammed President Duterte for once again rejecting proposals to implement limited face-to-face classes.
“The Philippine education system is being held hostage by the Duterte administration’s ineptitude in dealing with the pandemic,” the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines said.
ACT said this after the President turned down proposals for limited face-to-face classes in a pre-recorded televised address on June 21.
Duterte told Education Secretary Leonor Briones that he was “not inclined to agree” with the proposal. “I cannot gamble on the health of the children, I hope you understand,” he added – citing the dangers of the Delta variant of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In light of the President’s decision, Briones withdrew DepEd’s request for the pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes, noting that the agency would also “not want to risk the health” of students and teachers.
ACT, however, criticized Duterte and the government’s “failed” pandemic response which – it lamented – “ties the entire education system to its equally failed remote learning program.” “When and how does the government plan to effectively control the virus and finally reopen schools?,” ACT asked.
For ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio, it has been “more than a year into the pandemic and we’re yet to see significant strides in our fight to get out of this health crisis.”
Basilio noted that the several “militaristic lockdowns” without ample medical response expectedly failed to contain the virus. “Now, COVID-19 cases are on the rise again and mostly outside NCR, where we could have piloted a limited run of face-to-face classes,” he said.
The excessive prolonging of school lockdown, Basilio added, is “tantamount to the President’s own admission of his failed vaccine program, much like the rest of his responses to COVID-19.”
ACT said that the country “still lags behind in terms of vaccination” with only around 1.98 percent of the population being fully inoculated or having received complete doses of any COVID-19 vaccine as of June 20, 2021.
Citing figures from Reuters COVID-19 tracker, ACT said that the “country is only at 173,908 jabs per day, which is still far from the needed 700,000 daily jabs to cover 70 percent of the population” by the end of 2021.
“At the rate we’re going, the country is nowhere near the government’s own target for herd immunity; especially with government neglect leading to the quick spread of the virus throughout the country, particularly in places where the state of health services and facilities are most dismal,” Basilio lamented.
Citing latest figures, ACT said that the rate of increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases have gone down in Metro Manila while a steep increase was observed in other areas.
“It’s starting to feel like we’re at the mercy of the behavior of this virus, like there’s no government at all,” Basilio said. “President Duterte claims he can’t gamble on the health of children, but what has he done to protect them and their rights aside from keeping them locked away in their homes?” he added.
Basilio said that part of ensuring the welfare of the youth is ensuring their access to quality education. “[But] what has Duterte done for education amid the pandemic? Nothing,” he said.
The group also denounced the government’s continuing COVID-19 response of “merely passing on the burden to the people” instead of implementing and exhausting all measures to effectively contain the virus and curb its effects on the people.