With only five days until the opening of classes for the academic year 2021-2022, we are waiting for President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval of the proposal of the Department of Education to reopen physical classes in properly identified, chosen, low-risk areas.
DepEd officials say the number of enrolled students in both public and private schools has only reached 17.96 million thus far — or 45 percent less than last year’s 26.2 million students or 68.5 percent of the 26.2 million.
Our hope, of course, is that the students’ learning modules are cut off from errors of facts and grammar, which would invite once more understandable concerns and questions from parents and others watching the education scene.
Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan disclosed the numbers in a Laging Handa briefing earlier this week, as the department waited for President Duterte’s go-ahead to DepEd’s proposal for limited physical classes.
Schools are expected to reopen on Sept. 13 – the second time it would do so during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced distance learning previously not experienced by the schools.
Malaluan urged parents to “not wait until the last day of enrolment” on Sept. 13 before getting their children to attend class.
But he was confident the country would reach, if not exceed, last year’s 26.2 million enrolments, which still saw 3 million students out of school after the Philippines shifted to distance learning for the first time.
At the same time, officials hope to encourage students who skipped school last year to come back this year.
At least 120 schools in areas deemed “low risk” for COVID-19 would start the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes in the country, should President Rodrigo Duterte give the green light.
But where are these schools, or in what regions are they?
Initially, only 100 public schools were nominated for the conduct of limited face-to-face classes but Education Secretary Leonor Briones requested 20 more private schools to join the pilot run. But it is not clear if the limited face-to-face classes will be conducted on the same day as the opening of classes.
“The Department of Health agreed [to] the additional 20,” Malaluan said, adding the private schools to be identified will also follow the standards adopted for public schools.
At a House hearing on the DOH’s 2022 budget earlier this month, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH and the Department of Education were “finalizing the joint issuance” for the conduct of limited face-to-face classes.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority has joined education and local government officials in the ongoing public schools’ clean-up operation in preparation for the upcoming school year.
MMDA chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr. explained that while there were no face-to-face classes yet because of the COVID-19 pandemic, these cleaning efforts and initiatives were still very important especially since teachers and parents still go to school for distribution and submission of modules as part of the distance learning system or blended learning.
On Monday, Abalos and other officials inspected Doña Juana Elementary School in Barangay Holy Spirit, Quezon City and Silanganan Elementary School in Barangay Bagong Silang, Caloocan.
According to Abalos, the MMDA accommodated requests for assistance from schools in cleaning their premises.
Personnel from the MMDA’s Metro Parkways Clearing Group, Health, Public Safety, and Environmental Protection Office, and Traffic Engineering Center conducted misting (anti-dengue) operations, cleaning, roof gutter declogging, drainage cleaning, pruning of trees, planting, and painting of pedestrian markings.
“We are focusing not just on addressing the pandemic but also on our anti-dengue efforts, through our misting operations especially since we are expecting typhoons these ‘ber’ months,” Abalos said.
the MMDA chief also said that the MMDA will also clean canals which are the usual breeding grounds for dengue-carrying mosquitoes.
The MMDA is part of the DepEd’s Oplan Balik Eskwela – Inter-Agency Task Force which is tasked to provide guidelines in health and safety, peace and order, transportation, and other forms of support when the school year opens.
In the Senate, Sen Win Gatchalian pressed the national government to uphold the welfare of teachers, especially those falling ill with COVID-19.
Gatchalian’s call came after Department of Education Undersecretary for Finance Annalyn Sevilla raised concerns in a public hearing that the agency proposed financial assistance for school
personnel who will get infected with the coronavirus disease for School Year 2021-2022 but was not considered in the 2022 National Expenditure Program.
DepEd explained that under the national budget, it was not authorized to spend for the treatment of personnel who test positive for COVID-19.
However, DepEd personnel can avail themselves of packages from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation should they get infected.
While Gatchalian acknowledged that Congress could amend the proposed 2022 budget to consider DepEd’s proposal, he said that a special arrangement with PhilHealth—such as the creation of a special lane at the very least—would be the quickest way to provide relief to teachers.
Gatchalian assured DepEd that in crafting the 2022 budget, he would push for amendments that would authorize providing assistance to personnel getting infected with COVID-19.
Since the implementation of the distance learning program, teachers’ groups have been lamenting the lack of financial assistance from the education department for teachers and staff who test positive for the coronavirus.
Aside from the P5,000 cash allowance in June, a Special Hardship Allowance, which is 25 percent of the teachers’ monthly basic salary, is expected to be given ahead of school opening.
That’s on track.