MANILA The government should focus on addressing the needs of the education sector to adjust to the “new normal” during the coronavirus pandemic instead of suspending classes indefinitely while waiting for a vaccine against the respiratory disease, teachers’ groups said Tuesday.
President Rodrigo Duterte said late Monday he would not allow physical classes to resume unless a vaccine against COVID-19 becomes available in the country.
But the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said government should instead focus more on helping the education sector adjust to the new normal, and provide health facilities and workers in schools.
“That should be the basis of opening up schools, more than the vaccine,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio told ABS-CBN News.
“Formal school opening may be suspended pending the fulfillment of our demands. In the meantime, learning can continue through voluntary enrichment program,” Basilio said.
The group earlier asked government for a comprehensive plan that would guarantee the safety of students, educators and school personnel from COVID-19 once they are asked to physically return to schools.
The education department has said it would release health standards that schools must follow for the coming school year, which was scheduled to start on August 24.
The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), meanwhile, said the opening of the school year on August 24 should be suspended “to buy time for the preparation of school systems.”
“Hindi rin naman kami okay sa vaccine as pre-requisite for schooling. But rather, yes, we need to zero-in on the needs for alternative modes,” TDC Chairperson Benjo Basas said.
(We are also not okay with a vaccine as a pre-requisite for schooling. But rather, yes, we need to zero-in on the needs for alternative modes.)
The group also urged Congress to process several proposals to amend Republic Act No. 7977, the law that mandates that the opening of classes every year should be held between June and August.
CLASS SUSPENSION TO STRAIN ECONOMY
A group of private schools, meanwhile, opposed suspending classes until a vaccine is made available, saying it would “strain and put more pressure on our already failing economy.”
Parents would be unable to work since they would have to stay home to take care of their children, said Joseph Noel Estrada, managing director of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (Cocopea).
“This would affect the economic abilities of families to support their daily needs and would turn to the government for ‘ayuda,’” said Estrada, whose group counts 2,500 private schools as members.
There will also be a “crisis in the needed professionals” since postponing the school year would delay the graduation of college students, he said.
Estrada added that the livelihood of over half a million workers in private schools would also be affected.
“We appeal to the president to allow our experts from both public and private sectors to continue to find ways to work on modes to deliver education without asking our students to go back to school physically,” he said.