MANILA - Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go on Thursday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to move the opening of classes to October, saying the agency needs more time to prepare teachers, parents and students for different learning methods under the new normal.
The opening of classes should be moved from August 24 to October to "avoid risking the lives of children" and give the government "more time" to prepare, said Go, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health.
"Kung hindi pa handa, huwag nating pilitin. Magiging kawawa ang mga estudyante, kawawa ang mga teachers," he said in a statement.
(If we are not ready for it, we should not force it. Students and teachers will have a hard time.)
"Hirap na po ang mga Pilipino, huwag na nating dagdagan pa ng pressure ang mga bata at mga magulang nila," he said.
(Filipinos are already having a hard time, let's not add pressure to the children and their parents.)
Congress earlier passed a measure allowing the DepEd to move the opening of classes beyond August, but Education Sec. Leonor Briones opted to keep the August 24 opening, with students learning at home - either through online, tv, radio, or printed materials - to avoid possible exposure to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
DepEd still needs to finish printing self-learning modules for students, while teachers and learners also need more time to familiarize themselves with the shift to distance learning, Go said.
"Kung tayo nga dito sa Senado ay nahihirapan sa transition to online, paano pa kaya sila?" he said.
(Even we in the Senate are having a hard time transitioning to online, what more these children?)
"Ang internet hindi rin reliable, tapos 'yung offline modes of learning naman pinaghahandaan pa rin... Ayaw nating maipasa ang burden sa estudyante at ma-pressure sila dahil sa makabagong paraan ng pag-aaral kung hindi pa naman po handa ang lahat," he said.
(Our internet [connection] is not reliable, and the offline modes of learning are still being being prepared... We don't want to pass the burden to students and pressure them to shift to this new form of learning if we are not yet ready for it.)
Senate Basic Education Committee chair Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian gave a similar recommendation after his panel found that the DepEd has yet to finalize its COVID-19 program for teachers.
"Very disappointing kasi giyera 'yung pupuntahan natin tapos ang mga sundalo natin walang proteksyon," Gatchalian said, referring to teachers who are required to visit their students in communities from time-to-time.
(It is very disappointing because we are sending our soldiers to war without protection.)
"Ang importante ngayon ay ang assurance sa ating teachers na aalagaaan namin kayo, may pondo kami dito, may partnership with PhilHealth at kahit anong mangyari sa inyo okay kayo," he said in an online press conference.
(The important thing that we should do now is to give assurance to our teachers that we will care for them, we have funds for them, we have a partnership with PhilHealth, so that whatever happens to them, they are going to be okay.)
Teachers also want class opening moved
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers has also asked senators to pass a resolution urging President Rodrigo Duterte to postpone the August 24 school opening.
Less than 2 weeks before classes start, only 38 percent of school division offices are "half ready" with printed modules, the group said, citing DepEd data presented to senators on Wednesday.
The group said the unavailability of printed modules in most schools "cannot be taken lightly."
"We hereby call on senators to sign a resolution recommending that the president move the formal opening of classes until quality learning can be guaranteed for all learners and the health of all involved secured," the group said.
The Philippines' shift to distance learning education began in the second quarter of 2020, after President Rodrigo Duterte banned children from coming to school while a COVID-19 vaccine has yet to be formulated.
Earlier this week, the Philippines began meeting with Russian vaccine makers for Phase III testing of Sputnik V, touted to be the world's first vaccine against COVID-19.