MANILA — Vice President Leni Robredo is urging the Department of Education to conduct mass testing of teachers for COVID-19 as well as set aside funds for the physical check-ups and medicines of teachers, their safety gear, and hazard pay.
In the letter sent to Education Secretary Leonor Briones, Robredo suggested a “COVID-19 mass testing mechanism specifically for teachers, with testing and distribution of results done before classes begin.”
Robredo, whose late mother was an educator, said the DepEd earmarked P29.5 billion for the rehabilitation of school buildings this year, which would no longer be a priority given the shift to online classes.
"This amount can be used to procure the needed gadgets and equipment for distance learning, as well as address the health concerns of educators," the Vice President said.
The DepEd also set aside some P700 million for the training of teachers this year. Most of these training will shift online and the department can save on travel and lodging expenses, which can be used for the coronavirus test of teachers, Robredo said.
Classes are set to open on Aug. 24, with the DepEd offering several options for distance learning, including the use of printed and digital modules, online classes, television, and radio.
Around 14 million households and 34,700 schools lack internet access. Only 7 million out of 20 million public school students have subscribed to DepEd Commons, a platform where they could access lessons on their own, said Robredo.
“Perhaps it would be prudent for government to devote significant resources in setting up internet hubs in schools and communities, so that the gaps in access are addressed,” she said.
The Vice President also urged DepEd to cascade information on how teachers can get printed learning modules and who would cover expenses for their printing and distribution.
The DepEd earlier said it could not afford to test all teachers for COVID-19 but the agency has a testing protocol in its health standards.
The agency's protocol allows testing for education workers who show symptoms of the respiratory disease or were exposed to confirmed cases, among other grounds.