The pronouncement of the Department of Education (DepEd) that the opening of School Year (SY) 2021-2022 was a “success” was strongly condemned by an activist youth group on Wednesday, Sept. 15.
Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) criticized DepEd, particularly Education Secretary Leonor Briones, after she declaring that the second year of opening of classes amidst the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic was successful.
“We open classes today in celebration of our victories and successes,” Briones said during the virtual National School Day Opening program on Sept. 13.
However, SPARK deemed the claim of Briones as “baseless” due to the challenges under distance learning which remain unaddressed by the DepEd and the government.
“No, the second year of opening of classes isn’t something to celebrate about,” SPARK spokesperson for junior and senior high school affairs Justin Dizon.
Dizon stressed that contrary to Briones’ declaration, the SY 2021-2022 school opening is “nowhere near victorious, nor is it successful as this is subjected to repeat the hardships that the students, their families, and teachers experienced last year.”
DepEd officially opened the SY 2021-2022 on Sept. 13.
While classes officially started, SPARK claimed that “students and teachers still continue to plead as the opening of the new academic year was ill-prepared and still faces the same problems that they experienced from last year.”
Dizon said that second year into distance learning yet “we see no efforts made by DepEd to solve the burden that they’ve given unto educational stakeholders.”
“We are forced into another year of failed distance learning and a doomed face-to-face pilot run for kindergarten up to grade 3 students,” Dizon explained.
SPARK alleged that teachers in some schools cannot distribute modules to students since preparations remain incomplete.
“Some resorted to using their own resources to be able to distribute lacking modules for their students on the first day of classes,” Dizon said.
“Alongside teachers, students alike still lack the same resources such as proper gadgets and decent internet connectivity that they have been worrying about since last year,” he added.
The group further criticized DepEd’s “ill-prepared proposal” to conduct face-to-face classes pilot run for Kindergarten to Grade 3 students.
“At a time where cases continuously increase each day, a slow vaccine rollout, and healthcare workers are overworked and overwhelmed – carelessly conducting face-to-face classes without doing necessary work beforehand would only mean sending children to unsafe environments,” the group said.
Dizon said that even if the age group of kindergarten to Grade 3 students are the most resilient to the COVID-19 virus, this should not be used as an “excuse for the government to use them as human guinea pigs or sacrificial lambs.”
For Dizon, resuming face-to-face classes “prematurely can cause an upsurge in cases, thereby also overwhelming our health sector furthermore.”
However, SPARK continues to push for a safe return to face-to-face classes for as long as the government fulfills the requirements towards a successful transition such as mass vaccination for the education sector and subsidies for students’ and teachers’ internet and electricity costs, as well as for gadget procurement.
The group is also calling for the refund for unused school fees, rejection of fee increases, and reduction of current fees and retrofitting of classrooms and other facilities where students converge such as laboratories, dormitories, and nearby computer shops.
“Not doing so or doing any less from these would mean sending children to their deaths,” SPARK warned.
Dizon also told Briones that the second year of resuming classes amidst the pandemic “isn’t something to celebrate, especially if you blatantly disregard the welfare of your stakeholders.”
For SPARK, the resumption of classes can only be “victorious and successful as you say if all students are given not only education that is safe, but education that is also free, accessible, and quality, to all.”
From ‘victory to success’: Why opening a new school year amidst a pandemic is still worth celebrating for DepEd