ACT calls for comprehensive health measures, natl govt funding for safe schools before face-to-face

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines demanded that the national government employ ‘comprehensive health measures’ instead of risking young learners’ safety with ‘unsafe’ return to schools due to DepEd’s poor health protocols and the national government’s ‘non-commitment to fund’ safe, accessible, and quality education.

The call came on the heels of DepEd Sec. Briones’ proposal and subsequent approval of the President to hold face-to-face classes in low-risk areas. The education secretary said that such was largely pushed by local government units.

ACT demanded that the ‘major holes’ in DepEd’s health protocols detailed in DO 14, s.2020 should ‘first be mended’ before talks of holding physical classes continue, because the policy is ‘neither preventive nor responsive.’

“We’re only about a month away from class opening, and we’re still yet to see substantial budget and sufficient measures to ensure the safe return to schools of either or both education workers and learners. The agency still refuses to properly hold health screening, outrightly denies mass testing, fails to lay down plans to hire school nurses and address facility issues, maintains the lack of sick leave benefit for teachers, and forgoes any institutional accountability and support for its constituents who may be infected towards and during class resumption,” revealed ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio.

The group argued that the clamor for face-to-face classes does not come from LGUs and lawmakers’ belief that it’s safe enough to do so, but from the LGUs’ difficulties in meeting the burdensome requirements of distance learning passed onto them by the national government.

However, ACT found disappointing DepEd’s pronouncement that even the safety measures needed for face-to-face classes will be shouldered by LGUs.

“Sec. Briones and President Duterte conceding to face-to-face classes in some areas is short of acknowledging the weakness of LCP in terms of education access and quality. But accessible and quality education shall not come at the cost of safety,” said Basilio.

Basilio added that the Duterte administration’s failed response to the pandemic, evidenced by the ‘raging, unabated spike’ in confirmed COVID-19 cases, remains ‘at the core’ of the unsafe conditions for physical classes, so much that the group remains ‘wary that there are in fact low-risk areas and will stay as such.’

“Hence the need for a comprehensive approach to the health crisis, while also guaranteeing access to and quality of education, as is the state’s duty. No more passing this off to local units, we demand that the national government once and for all take decisive steps towards resolving the crises plaguing our country,” asserted Basilio.