MANILA - Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Monday declared victory against the novel coronavirus as she formally opened the new academic year, which will see the implementation of distance learning in schools nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Today, we celebrate a great victory. We declare our victory over COVID-19, the destroyer of our lives," Briones said during the department's school opening program.
"We will not allow COVID-19 to destroy our children's education and their future," said Briones, herself a survivor of the respiratory disease that has sickened over 322,000 and killed around 5,000 in the country.
Briones said continued education would bring normalization to the activity and growth of students during the pandemic.
The secretary also assured that the department would work hard to ensure learning even as it anticipated challenges to arise in distance learning.
"Igagapang ng DepEd at lahat ng nagsusuporta [sa] DepEd... kailangan ipagpatuloy ang pag-aaral. Kailangan igapang natin maski maraming challenges," she said.
In his recorded speech aired during the program, President Rodrigo Duterte said the fresh school year also marked a new era in the country's basic education system because of the shift to distance learning.
"The school opening of this year is a momentous occasion because it is pushing through despite [the] global health crisis due to COVID-19," he said.
"This time also ushers in a new era in our basic education program as we now venture into distance and online learning," the chief executive added.
More than 24 million learners enrolled in the basic education system this year, with around 22.5 million registering in public schools.
Even as the DepEd assured that it was ready to start the school year, students, parents and teachers continued to expressed skepticism over the new learning setup.
Among the reasons they cite are lack of gadgets and unreliable internet connectivity, which could be used by students and teachers for online classes or to communicate with each other. Some parents also doubt if students would effectively learning through distance education.
Last week, students from marginalized sectors, including indigenous groups and out-of-school youth, called on government for a more "inclusive education" during the new school year.