Students' groups call for weekly antigen testing in face-to-face classes

Published December 4, 2021, 11:24 AM

by Gabriela Baron

Various students’ groups penned an open letter to the national government, calling for weekly coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing instead of mandatory vaccination of students who will participate in limited face-to-face classes.


The open letter, drafted by the Kabataan Partylist, National Union of Students of the Philippines, and Rise for Education, is addressed to the National Task Force Against COVID-19, Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Commission on Higher Education, and Department of Education, and President Rodrigo Duterte.

The groups rejected mandatory vaccination as the basis to allow students to join the limited in-person classes, saying it “discriminates against students who reside in areas with relatively lower vaccination rates” and who are not yet vaccinated “because of the slow vaccination process of the national government.

READ MORE: CHED: Only fully vaccinated teachers, students allowed to join limited face-to-face classes

They instead proposed the conduct of weekly COVID-19 testing among students, teachers, and staff who will participate in limited face-to-face classes.

“[Create] a medical fund for free treatment of those who will get infected with COVID-19 and secure funding for these purposes from the national budget,” the letter read.

The groups also asked the concerned agencies to assist educational institutions to enable them to abide by standards, including better ventilation, use of well-fitting face masks, sanitation facilities, and functional school clinics.

“[Hire] sanitation and health personnel, and guarantee one nurse per district in basic education or one nurse per campus in higher education, instead of deploying police or military personnel for the observance of health protocols in school premises,” the letter also read.

“[Employ] more teachers and staff, increase their salaries, and grant them overtime pay, overload pay, hazard pay, and allowance for internet and gadgets and assist students and dropout by implementing a student aid program that grants a one-time cash subsidy of P10,000 for school-related expenses including tuition, other school fees, gadgets, internet connectivity, transportation, student housing, [and] medical insurance,” it further read.

They also called for the removal of “non-essential items and procedures” such as face shields, protective barriers, floor markings, and foot traffic systems.

Meanwhile, students whose schools are yet to conduct limited face-to-face classes should be allowed to use campus facilities such as libraries, computer rooms, and laboratories.

“Filipino students and youth can no longer bear distance learning. The past academic year has already impacted not just the formal learning of students but also their emotional and mental development. One year of distance learning has also caused much economic ad mental burden on students, parents, teachers, and schools,” the letter pointed out.

“We cannot afford to keep on depriving Filipino students of physical opportunities to learn. Hence, the national government must take concrete actions to not further delay the safe transition toward limited face-to-face classes and make learning in school campuses accessible to more students. Our national leaders must assist schools and not make it difficult for them to reopen, and must provide adequate funding for the steps needed to safely reopen more schools.”