MANILA - Two of the 3 senators pushing for the conduct of face-to-face classes maintained on Monday their position that there is a need to reconsider the current distance learning mode in municipalities without COVID-19 cases.
But Senate Committee on Education chair Sherwin Gatchalian clarified he is not pushing for the return of millions of students as being projected by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.
"The signals kasi are quite confusing dahil massage parlor pwede hanggang 75 percent. Sabong, pwedeng mag-open… But 'yung localized limited face-to-face [classes], hindi pwede. So, we’re sending confusing signals," Gatchalian told ABS-CBN News.
(The signals are quite confusing because massage parlors are allowed to operate up to 75 percent. Cockfighting is allowed... But localized face-to-face classes are not allowed. So, we're sending confusing signals.)
Policy makers should realize the importance of education to the youth, he said.
"We have to view education as an essential. We have to put education in the same plain as, say, medical or food security concerns, because learning is an essential part of our economic development," he said.
"If our children will not learn, we will have long-term effects here in our country."
Gatchalian warned students could eventually lose interest in learning and may no longer make positive contributions to the country.
The senator said even the Department of Education (DepEd) admits it is hard to teach using the distance learning scheme.
"Lalo na 'yung tinamaan ng bagyo, wala sila ni isang hawak na module. How do they teach, (eh), kahit isang module, wala," he said.
(Especially those who were hit by typhoons, they no longer have modules. How can they teach when they don't even have one module?)
In far-flung areas, like the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), many parents have not completed their education, making them incapable of teaching their children, Gatchalian said.
There are at least 200,000 dropouts in BARMM, he noted.
"I’m not pushing for full opening of classes. We have to do it localized, and we do it limited," Gatchalian said, adding that some local government units are just requesting to have some workshops.
"They’re not requesting for 5 days a week. They are requesting for one day in a week, or may be a few hours in a day. Ang importante lang, yung bata magkaroon ng engagement because without engagement, hindi siya matuto," he said.
(What's important is to have an engagement with the children because without it, they cannot learn.)
The current setup could also affect the children’s mental health and social development, he said.
Sen. Imee Marcos earlier raised the irony of allowing cockfights even as government bans face-to-face classes, even in municipalities with zero COVID-19 cases.
Gatchalian brought up the policy of allowing the return of spa businesses, while Sen. Nancy Binay wondered why the youth or students are already allowed to travel, but not attend face-to-face classes.
Over the weekend, Año told the senators: "Let’s not rush it. The question really here should be, you want to do that but who will take responsibility? You’re excellent in making recommendations but you’ll have no responsibility over it. If people get sick and there is a spike, are you going to cure them? Are you going to spend for their treatment?"
"We are hardly rushing - we are among the last, if not the last, following Nigeria in October, countries in the world to reopen our schools!" Marcos said in a statement.
Learners’ interaction with their teachers in schools can be managed safely with the help of local government units, according to Marcos.
"The local educational authorities would also be far more agile and quick to revert to remote learning should a COVID-19 spike ensue," she said.