/ 7 October 2020

THE ALLIANCE of Concerned Teachers disputed the statement of Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones that the opening of classes is a victory against Covid19.

The ACT said that the opening of classes on Monday, October 5, 2020, was “premature, presumptuous, even dangerous.”

“We all want education to successfully continue in the midst of this pandemic, but this will depend on how in touch the government is to ground situations and their apt and timely response to identified needs and concerns. Clearly, the DepEd remains blind to the realities of teachers, learners and parents and, more disturbingly, seemingly intent on staying that way given their recent pronouncement,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said in a statement.

“It was teachers’ hard work and sacrifices that enabled us to open schools, costing us personal resources and to the detriment of our own well-being,” he added.

The group said nothing about the school opening being victorious.

“The mere opening of classes is not by itself a victory against Covid19 and its disruptive impacts on the people’s lives,” it said.

Basilio said that teachers, parents, and learners largely held orientations on the first day of classes.

“A vast majority of enrolled students opted for modular learning for this school year. However, our bisita-eskwela and monitoring confirmed that centralized modules from DepEd’s national office have yet to reach NCR [National Capital Region] schools, prompting DepEd division offices to either make do with locally developed ones or push back the scheduled formal classes pending the needed materials. In the divisions of Caloocan, Manila, and Malabon, local modules arrived late and some were littered with errors or lacked certain pages. In Quezon City, the division decided to dedicate the first two weeks to diagnostic tests, orientations, and other activities,” Basilio reported.

The ACT said that most teachers were unable to teach on the first day of classes because they were asked to perform non-teaching tasks.

Another major challenge faced by teachers and learners on Monday was the lack of technology infrastructures and gadgets. The ACT said there were reports that only half or less than half of students were able to attend synchronized online class meetings because of weak or lost internet connection.

“In Manila and Malabon, teachers lamented that they themselves struggled with stable internet connection. It was worse, however, for their students, especially the poorer ones. We even had reports that some students and parents alike weren’t able to attend their virtual orientation because they had no clue how to operate their gadgets or their devices were simply incompatible with the programs used for class,” Basilio said.

The ACT said that the provision of laptops, gadgets, and internet allowance or subsidy and solving the connectivity problems should be given priority.

“These have been raised since the government announced its plan to employ remote learning, yet these remain unresolved. How then can DepEd claim victory over anything? We haven’t even gotten to more challenging but equally urgent needs for education continuity amid the pandemic, such as the hiring of more teachers, establishment of preventive measures in schools, protection and benefits for education frontliners, support for parents, and a concrete program for those unable to enroll—their right to education remains the state’s duty to fulfill,” Basilio said.