MANILA – Several student groups have placed blame on the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for the death of a student from Capiz, criticism the government agency decried as sensationalism.
In separate statements, student groups urged CHED to suspend online classes and implement mass promotion as they said the commission was partly accountable for the death of Cristelyn Villance, a student killed in a road accident after completing online class requirements.
But the CHED on Tuesday hit back at the groups for “sensationalizing” the incident, saying this was aimed at pushing their agenda in opposing flexible learning.
Villance, a criminology student from the Dumarao campus of Capiz State University (CAPSU), died last week after the motorcycle she rode with her father figured in an accident. She was on her way home from a computer shop, where she supposedly worked on a class requirement.
DEATH HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR MASS PROMOTION
Following Villance’s death, the Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) said CHED was partly responsible for the incident as it would not have happened if online classes were cancelled and mass promotion was implemented.
This as schools remained shut because of the coronavirus crisis.
“The Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) also has blood on its hands,” the group said in a statement over the weekend.
“In its refusal to issue a memo or even a statement standing against the continuation of online classes and submission of requirements, they have forced students all over the country to bend over backwards to find the necessary resources to comply with continued academic requirements,” it added.
The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), meanwhile, said the incident should serve as a “wake-up call” to CHED and the national government.
"Students are exposed to unnecessary risks whenever we go out of our houses to access the internet and comply with school requirements during these difficult times," the group said.
For Anakbayan UP Diliman, Villance's death was enough basis for education agencies like CHED and the Department of Education to listen to legitimate calls to end the semester and implement mass promotion.
Most schools have shifted to online learning after physical classes were abruptly cut since mid-March after parts of the country were placed on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
CHED earlier said it was up to colleges and universities if they wanted to implement mass promotion.
‘DISTORTED, UNFOUNDED CLAIMS’
In response, CHED Chair Prospero De Vera condemned the 3 student groups, saying they used Villance’s death to oppose flexible learning, the delivery mode that colleges and universities were encouraged to implement for the coming academic year.
“I strongly condemn this distorted and unfounded claims of these student groups,” he said in a statement.
“The use of this incident for propaganda purposes is insensitive and an insult to the family of the victim,” he added.
Flexible learning involves the mixed use of various materials to deliver lessons to students, including online platforms, take-home exercises, and educational packets.
De Vera said CAPSU President Editha Alfon also reported to him that Villance passed all of her requirements in April.
“She could not have been looking for an internet connection to submit her requirements for her course because she had already completed all requirements two weeks before the accident,” said De Vera.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, April Joy Abelito, who heads the criminology program at CAPSU-Dumarao, also said Villance had completed her requirements last April.
In response to De Vera, SPARK Spokesperson John Lazaro said the CHED chief was trying to evade accountability and malign youth organizations.
“The story of Cristelyn Villance could have happened to any other student who had to go to such lengths just to keep up with academic requirements,” Lazaro said in a statement.
CHED has been hounded by concerns that flexible and online learning would burden students who do not have access to internet connectivity.
Last month, a student went viral on social media for her video post, which showed her submitting a class requirement while on top of a small mountain in Masbate.
The student said she had to hike up the mountain to connect to the internet whenever she had to send a class requirement. -- With a report from Cherry Palma, ABS-CBN News