MANILA — Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to ensure the safety of education workers as public schools resumed classes amid the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
"Dahil patuloy ang banta ng COVID-19, dapat nating tiyaking protektado sila at mayroon silang matatakbuhan kapag sila ay tinamaan ng sakit," Gatchalian, chair of the Senate basic education committee, said in a statement.
(Because of the continued threat of COVID-19, we must make sure that our education workers are protected and they have somewhere to run to when they get the disease.)
On Monday, over 18.5 million public school students resumed their studies at home as the Philippines entered its second year of distance learning.
But even with the absence of in-person classes, teachers and school workers are still exposed to the risk of getting COVID-19 since they carry out tasks such as the printing and distribution of modules, Gatchalian said.
The lawmaker asked the DepEd to work with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) in creating a "special lane" for school workers, which would ensure "speedier provision" of aid from the state insurer.
Despite having PhilHealth packages, teachers who get COVID-19 still "spend out of their pockets before receiving reimbursements," Gatchalian said.
He also reiterated the need to vaccinate teachers and minors against COVID-19 to ensure their safety in the possible gradual reopening of schools.
At the school year opening event, Education Undersecretary Alain Pascua said 380,000 of nearly a million DepEd teaching and non-teaching personnel have been vaccinated against COVID-19, based on reports from the agency's field units.
Meanwhile, over 270,000 personnel have used DepEd's self-reporting vaccine tracker to indicate whether or not they have received the jab, Pascua said.
The education department earlier launched a COVID-19 vaccination campaign for its personnel.