Health breaks, academic ease pushed

January 15, 2022 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 151 views

QUEZON City. Rep. Alfred Vargas has asked Congress to urge education sector leaders to heed students, parents, and teachers’ calls for health breaks and academic ease.

In a House resolution he filed, Vargas backed proposals to the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to implement more reasonable workloads and requirements in view of an unprecedented rise in new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases throughout the Philippines.

“With the alarming increase in COVID-19 cases affecting our fellow Filipinos’ mental well-being and the financial capacity of families – as well as the capacity of our learners and students to cope and adjust in a healthy way – government must explore innovative, compassionate, and proactive programs and policies that address these real concerns,” Vargas, brother of congressional candidate Patrick Michael “PM” Vargas, said.

In his resolution, Vargas said that the pandemic “is as much a mental health issue as it is an issue of physical health.”

Government and other sectors must work together to help individuals, families, and communities cope with pandemic-related stresses or recover from its adverse impacts, he added.

The lawmaker said that the recent public health situation, including the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, has “further negatively affected the lives and well-being of millions of learners, students, parents, and teachers all around the country, and has led to some academic groups calling for an ‘academic health break’ or ‘academic ease.’”

Vargas cited a statement from the Quezon City Public School Teachers Association (QCPSTA) and other groups, reporting a rise in the number of teachers, students, and parents falling ill since the start of classes last January 3.

He also said several universities have heeded the call for an academic health break so students, parents, and teachers can focus on their health and well-being. On the other hand, student groups have petitioned the DepEd and the CHEd to implement a nationwide academic ease.

Vargas said he is hopeful that the concerned agencies and institutions would listen to the appeal.

“Amidst the changing policy landscape of this pandemic, the DepEd and the CHED have been supportive of the physical and mental health care needs of learners and teachers, recognizing the need to prioritize physical and mental resilience and well-being,” he said.

He said he is encouraged by a recent DepEd memorandum giving authority its regional offices and school division offices to suspend classes and other teaching-related activities over pandemic concerns.

“The solidarity of DepEd, CHEd, state and local universities and colleges, and other higher education institutions in valuing, promoting, and protecting all stakeholders in education shall be invaluable in ensuring our nation’s resilience in the face of this pandemic,” he added.