/ 21 October 2021

A TEACHERS’ group was dismayed over the further reduction of the number of participating schools in the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers said that the steady decline in the number of schools— from about 1,000 to 30 — reveals a “defeatist trend” that may “very well lead to never re-opening schools.”

The group pressed the government to “build confidence” instead among stakeholders by addressing their valid concerns.

“While it’s unfortunate that the already conservative target of 120 schools upon its approval was further reduced to a mere 30, it is understandable that many are still scared and unprepared to try out physical classes amid the pandemic,” the group said.

“After all, nearly two years into this pandemic, the government has not implemented sound responses to the health crisis and only instilled fear through its militarist lockdown, while leaving us to die either by Covid19 or hunger. Local government units are also understandably feeling overwhelmed with their duties as they bore the brunt of the pandemic without ample resource support from the national government. So the burden is now on the national government, they need to get their act together,” Raymond Basilio, the group’s secretary general, said.

The group called for additional protective measures such as active testing at least 10 percent of a barangay population to ensure accuracy of the low/minimal risk classification, daily antigen testing of teachers and learners who will participate in in-classroom learning, deployment of nurse or any health personnel in participating schools, hiring of sanitation personnel, treatment support for those who may get infected with Covid19 during the course of the pilot run, hazard pay for participating education workers, ample funding provision from the national government.

“These measures can substantially reduce the anxiety of teachers, parents, students, and LGUs who will partake in voluntary and limited face-to-face classes, and will increase the chances of successfully running the pilot, which will then pave the way for more schools to re-open as soon as possible. With sufficient funding and support from the national government, each stakeholder can better perform her roles and responsibilities in education continuity, instead of being overburdened with making up for the lapses of the government. This will give the youth better chances of having safe and accessible quality education amid the pandemic, just as other countries have done,” Basilio said.

ACT reiterated that it is the duty of the government to exhaust all measures to enable local stakeholders to successfully implement the “long overdue” physical re-opening of schools. The group urged DepEd to push the Duterte admin to provide ample support for the conduct of face-to-face classes.

“We cannot keep sliding back on the progress we’ve made so far in the fight for safe school reopening. Masyado nang matagal sinakripisyo ang karapatang ito ng milyong kabataan, and DepEd owes it to them to keep pushing forward. DepEd needs to be more aggressive in demanding bigger funding and support from the Duterte admin,” Basilio said.