Following the government’s announcement of its plan to fully implement 100 percent face-to-face classes by November, teachers’ groups on Wednesday, July 6, said that measures that would ensure the safety of both teachers and students should be in place first.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines and Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), in separate statements, urged the Marcos administration — particularly the Department of Education (DepEd) headed by Vice President Sara Duterte as Education Secretary — to address the “urgent requisites” for full in-person classes.
“It would be hard for students, teachers, and parents to all go to school and encounter another surge of Covid-19, so we need to be careful and prepared,” ACT Philippines Chairperson Vladimer Quetua said.
TDC, on the other hand, reiterated its support for the resumption of in-person classes this incoming School Year (SY) 2022-2023.
“Our children have already suffered terribly under a distance learning set-up,” TDC National Chair Benjo Basas said. “But still, we need to prepare our schools if we project a 100 percent resumption,” he added.
Address urgent issues
Citing the result of the survey conducted by the Movement for Safe, Equitable, Quality, and Relevant (SEQuRe) Education on the initial face-to-face classes already held, ACT said that the Marcos administration has “a long way to go” if wants to open all the schools for 100 percent in-person learning.
The SEQuRE survey showed that government funding and support were “insufficient” which compelled 59 to 83 percent of teacher-respondents to “spend out-of-pocket to prepare schools and classrooms for safe reopening.
ACT also noted that based on the survey, “some important safety measures were still not sufficiently installed.”
Given this, ACT has raised some requisites to address the issues raised by the survey to have safe 100% face-to-face classes.
These include doubling school maintenance and operating budget for proper and adequate ventilation/air flow of classrooms; sufficient hand-washing facilities and water supply; operational clinic with adequate supplies and equipment; and ample health and sanitation supplies and enforcement of health protocols.
The Marcos admin was also urged to employ additional teachers to be able to implement the ideal class size of a maximum of 35 students.
Nurses and utility personnel, ACT said, must also be employed for every school.
To ensure the health protection and benefits of teachers and non-teaching staff, ACT said that the government must ensure free medical check-ups and treatment; 15-day sick leave for teachers; additional compensation for teaching overload and non-teaching duties for teachers, as well as overtime for teachers and employees; and timely and just payment of Special Hardship Allowance for teachers.
The government, ACT said, must also provide “aid for struggling families in the midst of the economic crisis.”
Moreover, ACT urged the Marcos administration — through DepEd — to conduct a learning assessment of students nationwide to “guide the curriculum adjustments” for the education recovery program.
“These are some of the requisites for a safe back-to-school program this year because we need to address the ‘old normal’ problems to enable a safe 100 percent school reopening,” Quetua said.
TDC, on the other hand, also underscored the importance of ensuring that learners and teachers are safe. This, the group said, would require several adjustments — especially in class size and physical facilities.
“Definitely we’ll be needing more classrooms and more teachers to effectively handle the delivery of education service, post-pandemic,” Basas said.