Open schools for in-person learning

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Parents, teachers and students greeted the opening of the school year with protests last September 13. Demanding #LigtasNaBalikEskwela (Safely Open Schools), the Alliance of Concerned Teachers condemned Rodrigo Duterte for displaying no sympathy in abandoning the education sector amid the pandemic.

ACT members marched to Mendiola in Manila calling for state support for teachers and students on distance learning and to safely open schools. The youth’s future now lies in the collective resolve of teachers, parents and students to end the Duterte regime and push for better governance, the group said.

On the same day, youth groups also congregated in Mendiola to call for the safe and immediate opening of schools for in-person learning. Similar protests were held in Pres. Corazon C. Aquino Elem. School in Quezon City, in the University of the Philippines-Manila, Eusebio Highschool sa Pasig City and in Poblacion, Muntinlupa.

No change in the ineffective mode

The Department of Education (DepEd) has done nothing to change the failed and burdensome learning system that it implemented last year. To make up for the ineffective online and module-based mode of teaching, teachers resorted to different ways just get lessons across to children. Even so, they admit that the quality of education has gone down due to the myriad limitations and problems with regards to gadgets, internet access, modules and parental capacity. In addition, students who did not participate in classes or those who did not even show their faces were allowed to move to the next grade level in accordance to DepEd’s dictates to justify the continuance of the blended learning mode.

Last September 9, the ACT released a study on public schools’ preparedness for the incoming school year. The study highlighted major problems such as shortages and delay in the release of modules, lack of gadgets and funds for internet access and excessive work for teachers.

The DepEd’s support for the teachers is almost non-existent. Its much vaunted procurement of 68,500 laptop is lacking as about 1 million public school teachers need them. The teachers also has no use of the sim card the department distributed due to poor signal in their areas.

Teachers have had no proper rest since the end of the last academic year. They carried on working through July and August with enrollment and printing of modules. Many of them are forced to seek donations from private donors due to lack of funds. They were supposedly on a work-from-home arrangement but they are compelled to be physically present in schools several times a week. They have yet to receive compensation for a total of 87 days overtime pay.

No budget, no plan for in-person learning

For colleges, the state continued with online classes to avoid being criticized for abandoning education, said the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP). Except for limited courses in 22 universities, in-person learning is prohibited despite various calls and studies supporting the safe opening of campuses since last year. The NUSP said the state needs to allocate funds to ensure the minimum health protocols are followed, for test kits and testing facilities inside campuses and for retrofitting classrooms to ensure social distancing. They asserted that the state distribute ₱10,000 as aid to support students with the increasing costs of schooling in the midst of the pandemic.

Deliberations for the 2022 national budget in Congress showed that funds for educational facilities were cut. According to the ACT, only ₱5.4 billion was allotted for the purpose in 2022, down by 51% compared to ₱11.1 billion allocation this year. From this, only ₱358 million was allocated for health facilities, a prerequisite for safe school openings. There was no clear budget for hiring school nurses.

Open schools for in-person learning