Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday lauded the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for supporting proposals for the opening of all public and private schools for face-to-face classes as this would accelerate the recovery of the education sector from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But while the IATF will not mandate a Covid-19 vaccination as a requirement for the conduct of full face-to-face classes, Gatchalian maintained the government should ensure increased vaccination coverage among eligible learners, especially among those aged 5-11.
“Napapanahon nang buksan natin ang ating mga paaralan para sa face-to-face classes, lalo na’t nananatiling mababa ang bilang ng mga kaso ng COVID-19 sa ating bansa (It’s really time for our schools to reopen for face-to-face classes, especially since the number of Covid-19 cases in the country is already low),” Gatchalian said in a statement.
“Kung nakakapagbukas at nakakabangon na ang ibang mga sektor, hindi na dapat mapag-iwanan pa ang sektor ng edukasyon, lalo na’t nais nating tiyakin ang magandang kinabukasan ng ating mga kabataan at muling pagsigla ng ating ekonomiya (If the other sectors are already open and are starting to recover, the education sector shouldn’t be left behind. Especially those who want to make sure our youth would have a better future and we want to make an economic recovery),” he said.
Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, has repeatedly rallied for the reopening of all schools for in-person classes as he expressed concern over the deteriorating quality of education in the Philippines.
The lawmaker has also repeatedly sought the proactive participation of the Department of Education (DepEd) and the schools in conducting pediatric vaccination for COVID-19, noting that this will ensure a more efficient identification and monitoring of learners who are eligible to receive the jabs.
In response, the IATF called on public schools to allow the Department of Health (DOH) to conduct Covid-19 vaccination programs in their premises, in coordination with local government units (LGUs).
The IAT also supports a closely-coordinated vaccination roll-out among private schools with the DOH and LGUs.
In a recent study, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) estimates that the two-year lack of face-to-face classes will cost the Philippine economy P22-trillion in productivity losses.
A joint report also released this year by UNICEF, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the World Bank titled “Where are We on Education Recovery?” estimates that less than 15 percent of 10-year old children in the Philippines can read or understand a simple story, putting the country’s learning poverty index to more than 85 percent.