MANILA— Riza Tahuyan could not shake off worries that she and other students from their Manobo tribe in Cotabato might face difficulties in their studies and be "left behind" in the coming school year.
Since in-person classes are suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most children will be learning through modules in their homes, guided by their parents and guardians.
But not all parents from their community are capable of guiding their children in their studies, said Tahuyan, an incoming Grade 11 student.
"Hindi lahat ng aming mga magulang ay nakapag-aral sa pormal na paaralan kaya wala silang kakayahan na makapagturo sa learning modules na gagamitin. Ang iba'y di marunong bumasa at sumulat," she said.
(Not all our parents were able to study in a formal school so they don't have the capability to teach us with the learning modules that we will use. Some of them don't know how to read and write.)
"Sana may umalalay sa'min na marunong magpaliwanag tungkol sa nilalaman ng mga modules."
(I hope someone who knows how to explain the contents of the modules will help us.)
She added that some students from their tribe live in far-flung areas, making the distribution and collection of modules difficult.
Tahuyan is one of the representatives from various sectors that called on government for more inclusive education in the new normal, in a virtual press conference organized Wednesday by E-Net Philippines.
"Learners with disabilities, out-of-school youth, Muslim and indigenous learners, and the 'last mile' learners. They are the marginalized, excluded and vulnerable sectors... and will surely be left behind in the new normal," said E-Net president Flora Arellano.
E-Net is a network of 130 civil society organizations that advocates for the education rights of Filipinos.
Arellano said government should improve the systems and mechanisms to increase the number of enrollment of learners from the marginalized sectors.
Teddy Cañete, an Alternative Learning System (ALS) community facilitator in Bacolod, said the country needs more mobile teachers to reach out-of-school youth in far-flung areas.
Some mobile teachers, said Cañete, even travel for 2 to 3 hours just to reach certain communities.
Clarissa Fetesio, who provides education to learners with disabilities (LWDs), also said there is a need for more teachers and learning materials for LWDs, especially in the provinces.
"[May] kakulangan ang bilang ng mga guro na may sapat na kaalaman sa pagtuturo sa mga batang may iba't ibang kapansanan, lalo sa mga batang deaf at blind," she said.
(There's a shortage in the number of teachers with sufficient knowledge in teaching children with various disabilities, such as those who are deaf and blind.)
ABS-CBN News has reached out to the Department of Education for a comment but there was no response yet as of this writing.
Roland del Rosario also reiterated concerns that his fellow public school teachers have been raising for months, such as the lack of modules and gadgets, and unreliable internet connectivity.
The education department earlier this week said nearly 80 percent of 667 million printed self-learning modules have been distributed.
Modules are also not the sole learning materials to be used this year as these can be supplemented by locally-produced modules and books as long as they are aligned with the DepEd's Most Essential Learning Competencies.
Del Rosario added that teachers still fear getting COVID-19 as they physically report to schools to fulfill their duties.
The DepEd earlier said physical reporting to schools was not mandatory under its alternative working arrangements.
Joseph Jovellanos of the Samahang Manggagawang
Pilipino-National Alliance of Teachers and Office Workers said many private school teachers feel overworked with the new setup.
"Kawawa sila dahil 24/7 na ang ginagawa namin [trabaho]... Hindi mo puwedeng hindi sagutin ang message ng isang bata. So tapos na ang trabaho mula Lunes hanggang Biyernes pero deretso pa rin hanggang gabi, Sabado, Linggo," he said.
(I pity our teachers because they work 24/7... We always have to reply to the messages of a student. So even if we're done working from Monday to Friday, work still continues at night, on Saturdays and Sundays.)
Classes in public schools are scheduled to start on Oct. 5. Private schools, on the other hand, were allowed to begin earlier.