MANILA (UPDATE) – The camp of Vice President Leni Robredo said Tuesday the Department of Education (DepEd) did not oppose its community learning hubs project until earlier in the day when the agency distanced itself from the initiative.
“Until today, national DepEd did not express any opposition to the initiative,” Robredo’s spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said in a statement.
In October, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) launched “hubs” that offer support to learners by providing them with free internet access, computers, gadgets and tutors.
Gutierrez was reacting to statements made by Education Secretary Leonor Briones at the Palace briefing during the day.
Briones said the DepEd communicated with the OVP in August over the initiative but it was rejected because, according to her, it involved face-to-face sessions, which President Rodrigo Duterte banned pending the availability of a vaccine against COVID-19.
“Ang polisiya namin, dahil sinusunod namin ‘yong utos ng President, hindi natin ‘yan ina-allow kasi wala naman sa authority ng DepEd na mag-anunsiyo ng ganoong klase na ire-reverse natin ang sinasabi ng Presidente,” she said.
(Our policy is we don’t allow it because we follow the orders of the President. The DepEd does not have the authority to reverse the President’s orders.)
Watch more in iWantTFC Video courtesy of PTV
The education chief was asked about the initiative following a news article (not by ABS-CBN News) that stated that the department partnered with the OVP for “limited in-person classes.”
Briones said the OVP had coordinated with local government units (LGUs) in setting up community learning hubs.
“Halimbawa, sa Pasig, nag-coordinate sila directly with the LGU in Pasig. Pero one-on-one, dahil hindi naman in-approve ng ating division superintendent iyon,” she said.
(For example, in Pasig, the OVP coordinated directly with the LGU in Pasig. But that’s one-on-one because our division superintendent did not approve the community learning hubs.)
Briones said the OVP’s plans to set up a hub in Caloocan was not approved by the local government, while the one in Taytay, Rizal was coordinated with barangay officials but the DepEd was not involved.
Gutierrez said the learning hubs initiative was coordinated with the DepEd “at both the national and local levels every step of the way.”
“Briones herself mentioned that ‘it is a good initiative’ and in fact requested for additional details to ‘evaluate the feasibility of implementing such a program at scale," he said.
Gutierrez also said the hubs “are not meant to be sites for classroom or face-to-face instruction.”
“Instead, it is meant to be a place for students where home-based learning is not conducive to get tutorial support in completing their modules and accessing resources, including the internet."
Gutierrez stressed that health protocols are strictly followed in the hubs.
“There is also proper coordination not just with local DepEd Divisions but also local government units to ensure a safe and effective learning environment,” he said.
There are 11 active hubs serving more than 2,000 learners in Luzon and Visayas, said Gutierrez, adding that DepEd officials are welcome to visit the hubs to see the services provided to students.
Responding to Gutierrez’s statement, the DepEd said the clarification at the Palace briefing was in reference to the news article.
“We are not privy to how the OVP has represented their initiative to media, and are responding only to the news item,” the department said in a statement.
The DepEd also clarified that while it welcomed the initiative of the OVP, “it was clearly not an agreement to a partnership, much less a reversal of a standing policy of no face-to-face classes at this time, even on a limited scale.”