Teachers’ group presses gov’t for safe reopening of schools

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2021 12:31 PM

A teachers’ group is asking government to safely reopen schools and resume in-person classes as soon as possible, arguing that students have been facing difficulties with distance learning. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA – A teachers’ group on Monday urged the government to come up with a clear plan to safely reopen schools and resume in-person classes, citing the challenges that students have been facing with distance learning.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Secretary General Raymond Basilio said the Department of Education should conduct an assessment of schools to see if their facilities are fit for the safe return of students.

“Panawagan [natin] ay iyong pagkakaroon ng maayos, malinaw at ligtas na plano para doon sa pagbabalik ng face-to-face classes, lalong-lalo na doon sa low risk areas [of COVID-19 transmission],” Basilio said in a virtual press briefing. 

(We’re calling for a systematic, clear and safe plan for the return of face-to-face classes, especially in areas with low risk of COVID-19 transmission.)

“Panawagan natin sa DepEd na magkaroon ng isang competent risk assessment ng mga eskuwelahan upang makita iyong mga kalagayan at iyong mga pangangailangan ng mga eskuwelahan,” he said.

(We’re calling on the DepEd to conduct a competent risk assessment of schools to check their conditions and needs.)

Through the assessment, DepEd can determine whether a school needs more comfort rooms, handwashing facilities, clinics, school nurses and sanitation personnel, Basilio said.

Basilio said there was a need for in-person classes because students continue to face difficulties with the current blended or distance learning setup, where they study from their homes via modules, online classes, television and radio.

“‘Yong kasalukuyang blended learning, hindi na po talaga ito maaaring magpatuloy kasi talagang mahihirapan iyong ating kabataang Pilipino. Masasayang iyong buong school year,” he said.

(We cannot continue with the current blended learning scheme because our Filipino youth will have a hard time. We’d be wasting the entire school year.)

ACT estimated that government would need to allot P120.38 billion to ensure safe schools and quality education during the pandemic, of which P15 billion would be used for the “retrofitting” of school facilities.

“Para po ito sa retrofitting, para ito sa pag-aayos ng classroom, pag-hire ng school nurse, pagbili ng thermal scanner, foot bath, alcohol dispenser,” Basilio said.

(This would be for the retrofitting of classroom, hiring of school nurses, and purchase of thermal scanners, foot baths, and alcohol dispensers.)

The education sector is allotted P751.7 billion, or 16.7 percent of this year's P4.506 trillion national budget.

Quezon City Public School Teachers Association President Kris Navales also appealed to the government to include teachers among the priority sectors under the COVID-19 vaccination plan.

ACT also reiterated its call for a P1,500 monthly internet allowance for teachers, adding that they would be writing a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte for such subsidy.

The group also asked to hike the salary of teachers, which was one of President Duterte’s campaign promises.

Currently, entry-level public-school teachers, which have a Salary Grade 11 under Tranche 4 of the Salary Standardization Law, earn P20,754 per month.

Some public schools in areas with low risk of COVID-19 transmission were supposed to hold a dry run of limited in-person classes last January but Duterte cancelled this due to concerns over a variant of the virus that emerged from the United Kingdom. 

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