Face-to-face with reality


Tonyo Cruz

An official of the United Nations Children’s Fund recently surprised us about one indisputable but apparently overlooked fact: The Philippines is the only remaining Asian country not to conduct face-to-face classes for its students.

Yes, the world is apparently moving on. Philippine schools at all levels however remain closed. To this day, instruction and learning continue to be done remotely and online.

A quick check of education-related news from our Southeast Asian neighbors would crush the heart of any Filipino student, parent or teacher. Nearby countries resumed face-to-face classes as early as June 2020. Others in November 2020. Yes, classes were also suspended and switched back to online for some periods due to spikes in coronavirus cases — but all the countries always tried to reopen the schools for the benefit of the students, teachers and parents.

I’ve talked with a lot of parents about this, and of course they are envious of what’s happening elsewhere and are furious about the state of affairs that keep the schools closed.

Working class and even a lot of middle class families cannot wait for the schools to reopen for a variety of reasons. Firstly, for the proper education and socialization of their kids. Secondly, so teachers could teach, test and tend to their students who long for direct, in-person instruction. Thirdly, so parents could focus on earning a living, tending their businesses and participating in the economy.

But there are so-called parents who use “kids” to justify the continued closure of schools. These “parents” of course care less about their own kids, but care more about defending the government’s disastrous pandemic response. They even claim students are better off riding the wave of the future through online learning for an extended period. I don’t know how wealthy these parents are that they don’t need to work and have time to tend to their kids, or what good stuff they’re having. They’re not really being parents. They’re being fanboys and fangirls of the President. They’re not thinking of the best for their kids. They’re thinking only about the President, and their privileged selves who can afford to sit out the pandemic and blindly deodorize the effects of the pandemic response.

For even on the matter of online education, the administration has failed to provide public school teachers the equipment, devices and internet connectivity subsidies that they need. Students and parents are left to fend for themselves for devices and internet connectivity. It had been put on the shoulders of students, teachers and parents the costs, financial or otherwise, of switching to online education.

The UNICEF’s reminder pushes us to go face-to-face with reality and ask tough questions that cry out to be answered. Why are our schools still closed? Why is the pandemic still not curbed in the Philippines? Why is the government continuing methods, tactics and strategies that are obviously failing in an epic manner?

Like all the world’s leaders, President Duterte could be correct in saying that nobody was prepared for this pandemic. But unlike leaders across the world, his administration has been the most unscientific in the pandemic response. The continued closure of Philippine schools as well as most businesses, and the massacre of jobs and enterprises, are a direct result of a mishandling of the pandemic. If the government’s methods were really so effective, matters won’t be this difficult or depressing.

Yes, the government needs parental guidance. Parents should speak out and demand the immediate reopening of the nation’s schools. Making such a demand would compel the Duterte administration to face the reality and explain why it keeps the schools closed. Making such a demand would provide parents the opportunity to ask questions and hold the government accountable. Making such a demand would be good for students, teachers and parents themselves. Making such a demand would aid scientists and medical experts in pushing for the solutions supported by most parents but ignored by the government: Mass testing, treatment, tracing, isolation and vaccination.

Filipino parents seek to protect kids from the harmful coronavirus and the dreadful pandemic response. They don’t tolerate lame excuses, stupidity, laziness, ineptitude and lack of imagination or “diskarte. “They don’t cheer on the prolonged lockdowns, or business or school closures. Parents want the pandemic solved — scientifically, effectively and without hanky-panky — for the good of their kids and the nation.