/ 22 October 2020

A YOUTH organization on Wednesday denounced the Department of Education for “washing its bloodied hands” off the suicides of 12 students and a teacher.

The DepEd issued a statement on Tuesday denying links between distance learning and the deaths.

However, the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan, or SPARK, insisted that DepEd was to blame for the deaths because the department pushed through with distance learning, ignoring the legitimate concerns of learners and educators.

“They knew that the country was not ready to make the shift to distance learning. They knew that there was insufficient funding, that poor internet connection was outside their control, and that the modules weren’t ready, that quality education could not be ensured under their new modalities, that both teachers and students will be subjected to mental stress and yet they insisted on resuming classes,” Justin Dizon, the group’s spokesperson for basic education, said in a statement.

Dizon pointed to the high and fast-rising number of deaths among students, majority of which were suicides, as proof that none of them were isolated incidents.

“The number of students and teachers who have lost their lives to this wretched education system has tripled in a matter of three weeks, from four to twelve,” he added.

The group pointed out that even young students have taken their own life.

“The youngest victims were aged 11. How can anyone look at this and still say that the system works, that the DepEd prepared well to avert these unfortunate events?” Dizon said.

He cited instances where students living outside Metro Manila but studying in the capital have to travel to pick up their modules, increasing their risk of contracting the coronavirus disease.

“Add that on top of the hundreds of teachers and school personnel contracting Covid19 when literally reporting for work, and you have an education department that simply prioritizes the school year over the lives of its constituents,” Dizon said.

“The officials at DepEd are nothing short of murderers. They have condemned us to bear the brunt of their stubbornness. To deny accountability is rubbing salt to the wounds we endure daily. We will give them no rest until they pay for their crimes,” he added.