Group to gov’t: Face-to-face classes are possible through other measures

Published July 16, 2021, 9:30 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

While it acknowledged the importance of the government’s vaccination efforts for the resumption of face-to-face classes, a group on Friday, July 16, said that there are other measures that can be implemented to ensure the safety of students and teachers.

Face-to-face classes held before the COVID-19 pandemic. (RIO DELUVIO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Many countries have physically reopened their schools long before vaccines became available,” Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines Secretary General Raymond Basilio said.

However, with the global scarcity of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines, the group noted that the government can find other ways to hold limited face-to-face classes without endangering the health and safety of stakeholders.

“Instead of holding education hostage by tying it to the still unreliable and frankly slacking vax program, we demand that the government implement concrete steps to enable our safe return to schools,” Basilio said.

Given this, ACT proposed a different set of minimum requirements to enable localities to hold face-to-face classes which include low-risk for COVID-19 spread (i.e., with zero or minimal number of cases); readiness of school facilities to enable implementation of health protocols; and health care capacity of areas to respond to and manage surges.

“It must be emphasized, however, that the fulfillment of these requisites is first and foremost the responsibility of the national government, of the Duterte administration,” Basilio said.

“These require significantly more budget to go to education to ensure school safety and health protection and benefits for education frontliners, as well as more fund support to LGUs in order for them to boost their capacities to detect and treat COVID-19 cases,” he added.

ACT furthered that these requisites must not be “mere impositions” by the national government to LGUs. “Instead, the national government must create comprehensive programs and policies and provide [a] sufficient budget for its implementation,” the group stressed.

In particular, ACT is calling for “significantly more funding” for education and health services to address concerns in the education system – particularly the resumption of in-person learning.