By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the National Task Force Against COVID-19 to include public school teachers in its prioritized groups for the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine, together with non-teaching staff and school administrators.
According to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, giving teachers the COVID-19 vaccine is a crucial step in ensuring the safety of school premises and in building confidence for the gradual resumption of face-to-face classes.
Gatchalian said that since the pandemic struck earlier this year, the country’s more than 900,000 teachers and non-teaching staff have been serving as frontliners to ensure learning continuity for more than 22 million learners.
The lawmaker recalled that when teachers were preparing for the implementation of distance learning, they risked their health and safety by distributing learning materials used by almost 87 percent of public school learners.
In his earlier statements, Gatchalian said that reopening the schools should be a priority to prevent an exacerbation of the learning crisis hounding the country.
He noted that global assessments such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2019, and the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM) 2019—all of which were administered before the pandemic—found the country’s learners lagging globally and failing to master basic competencies.
Last October, a policy brief from the United Nations identified the suppression of the virus transmission as the most significant step to hasten the reopening of schools.
Only recently, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently called on governments to treat teachers as frontline workers and give them priority access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“Dahil ang ating mga guro, mga punong-guro, at kawani ng mga paaralan ay nagsisilbing mga frontliners sa pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon, nararapat lamang na mabilang sila sa mga unang makakatanggap ng bakuna laban sa COVID-19. Mahalagang hakbang ito upang matiyak nating ang pagbabalik ng ating mga mag-aaral sa mga paaralan ay magiging ligtas,” Gatchalian said.
As the Department of Education (DepEd) braces for a dry run of limited and localized face-to-face classes in selected schools ahead of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, Gatchalian reiterated the need to strictly observe health protocols such as physical distancing, the wearing of masks, and regular hand washing.
He also added that schools and local governments should ensure access to testing and treatment for teachers and non-teaching staff. (AI/MTVN)