The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines criticized as a ‘knee-jerk, passive response’ the recall order of President Rodrigo Duterte on the conduct of limited face-to-face classes in January.
The group said such move does not answer safety, accessibility, and quality concerns in education amid the Covid-19 pandemic and its dangerous new variants. It reiterated the need for the Duterte government to take proactive measures against the local spread of existing strains of the virus and the equally pressing need to strengthen the education system to make it pandemic-responsive, its press release said.
Duterte on Saturday directed the Department of Education to cancel the planned resumption next month of face-to-face classes in areas deemed low risk for Covid.
Duterte gave the latest directive after a new strain of Covid-19, which was allegedly more infectious, has been detected in the United Kingdom and has already been reported in other neighboring countries, like Malaysia.
In his meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and infectious diseases experts, Duterte said he could not put the lives of learners at risk.
“I have allowed the face-to-face classes as pilot projects all over the country,” he said. “I’m calling back the order and I will not allow face-to-face classes of children until we are through with this. We have to, I said, we have to know the nature of the germ that we are confronting. Wala pa tayong alam (We know nothing yet). I cannot take the risk of allowing the children.”
Duterte admitted that it would be a “disaster”, should he allow the planned resumption of face-to-face classes to push through in January next year.
“That would be a disaster actually. So (we have to be) mindful of that: I am canceling the order I gave a few days ago – a few weeks ago – to Secretary (Leonor Magtolis) Briones of the Education Department to suspend everything, all activities of children, especially ‘yung (the) face-to-face classes,” he said.
On Dec. 14, Duterte gave his nod to the proposed conduct of a dry run of face-to-face classes in select schools in areas that will be considered at low risk for Covid-19.
In a statement sent to Palace reporters, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Briones would heed Duterte’s fresh directive.
“On her part, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones will implement the President’s instruction to recall limited face-to-face classes,” Roque said.
The DepEd was supposed to start the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes in areas categorized as low-risk areas under modified general community quarantine in January next year.
Before Duterte’s latest order, the DepEd planned to make the participation of learners in the pilot study to be voluntary with the requisite permit issued by the parents. The proposed face-to-face classes will also not be held for the full week schedule and with reduced class size to observe proper physical distancing within the classroom.*PNA