As schools nationwide resume five days of face-to-face classes, Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Health (DOH) to exhaust all measures to protect learners and teachers from COVID-19.
Aside from strictly implementing public health protocols and installing adequate handwashing and sanitation facilities, Gatchalian called on the DOH and the DepEd to ensure maximum vaccination coverage among teachers and learners, including and especially those, who are already eligible for their booster shots. Gatchalian earlier proposed school-based vaccination to promote the safe return of learners to schools. He also pointed to the persisting challenge of vaccinating learners in the 5 to 11 age group.
Prior to the opening of School Year 2022-2023, data from the DOH National Vaccination Operations Center showed that as of August this year, only 26.94% of children aged 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated and 76.41% of children aged 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated.
“Matapos ang mahigit dalawang taon ng paghihintay, sa wakas ay masasaksihan na natin ang pagbabalik ng lahat ng mga mag-aaral sa face-to-face classes. Kasabay nito, dapat nating tiyakin ang kanilang kaligtasan, pati na ng kanilang mga guro. Kaya naman patuloy nating dapat isulong ang pagbabakuna upang matiyak natin na ang ating mga guro at mag-aaral ay ligtas sa kanilang mga paaralan,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.
“Sa pagkakataong ito, nais ko ring pasalamatan ang ating mga guro dahil sa patuloy nilang pagsisikap upang maipagpatuloy natin ang edukasyon. Hindi natin malalampasan ang mga hamon ng nagdaang taon kung hindi dahil sa kanilang kabayanihan,” Gatchalian added.
The lawmaker also pressed the need to implement genuine learning recovery to address learning loss and mitigate the economic scars resulting from the lack of face-to-face learning. The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) previously said that the lack of face-to-face classes for one year alone would cost the economy almost P11 trillion in productivity losses over the next 40 years.
To address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gatchalian has filed Senate Bill No. 155 or the Academic Recovery and Accessible Learning (ARAL) Act which seeks to institute a nationwide program for learning recovery. The proposed program would include tutorial sessions.
PERENNIAL EDUCATION PROBLEMS
ACT Teachers Representative France Castro fully supports the DepEd’s decision on the full implementation of the face-to-face classes.
However, the lady solon said the government still needs to do more programs to support the schools and teachers in the full implementation of face-to-face classes.
“The schools and teachers are once again left to find ways and band-aid solutions for perennial problems of shortages in classrooms, teachers, and facilities and also to follow minimum health standards in schools to prevent the spread of diseases in schools,” Castro said.
Among the issues that DepEd must resolve are the overworked teachers, unfinished or dilapidated rooms; more shifts of classes a day; shortages in facilities;
Castro added that DepEd must ensure that minimum health standards are implemented during face-to-face classes.
Meanwhile, with the recent typhoons and earthquake, the DepEd needs to assess the damage in school facilities before the full implementation of face-to-face classes to ensure safety of students and teachers.
The Makabayan bloc has filed House Bill 4918 or An Act Providing for the Safe Reopening of Schools and Appropriating Funds.
The bill is still pending in the Committee on Basic Education.
“We urge our fellow lawmakers to urgently hear this measure as we start the full implementation of face-to-face classes today. We also urge our fellow lawmakers in the Senate to give higher priority to the programs of education supporting safe face-to-face classes. The Department of Education needs funds to fulfill its mandate of providing quality and accessible education for all, it does not need confidential funds, especially at a time when we are experiencing a worsening education crisis,” Castro added. With Jester Manalastas