ACT raises alarm to DepEd on worsening health crisis 3 weeks into school opening

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines sounded the alarm on the worsening health crisis only three weeks into school opening while the Department of Education (DepEd) ‘failed to install substantial and responsive’ measures to ensure the safety of personnel, parents, and learners and accessibility and quality of its learning continuity plan (LCP).

The group cited as evidence the reversion to MECQ of several places as health workers called for a ‘time out’ and recalibration of government response to the pandemic, and pressed DepEd to present how its LCP fares in the face of the developments in the situation.

“The incessant ballooning of COVID-19 cases and dwindling capacity of our health care system have prompted the return of several places to MECQ sans clear medical and socio-economic measures to go with it. By all indications, the situation will only worsen towards school opening yet our workplaces remain unsafe and quality education inaccessible to many. So, ano nang plano ng DepEd sa ganitong kalagayan?” pressed ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio.

DepEd’s plans for school year 2020–2021 announced in May has faced doubts and criticisms from the onset for being ‘detached’ from the present situation and operationally unrealistic among others, said ACT.

However, the group alleged that the agency ‘ignored these valid concerns’ raised by parents, teachers, staff, learners, and all other concerned groups and individuals. As of August 2, the Philippines has recorded about 139,000 positive individuals.

Among those are tens of teaching and non-teaching staff—with others already succumbing to the disease—and members of communities where DepEd constituents belong.

DepEd has yet to release a timely and comprehensive report on the total number of cases within its agency as well as its efforts to stem the spread and assist those already infected.

“Concretely, has DepEd intensified preventive measures in schools and offices, especially as personnel continue to flock on-site? Has it readied the budget for a P1,500 per month internet allowance for teachers and laptop provision for the same to enable a work-from-home arrangement amid the raging pandemic? How is it addressing the infrastructure needs of online distance learning while such becomes even more unaffordable to more families falling deeper into poverty?” raised Basilio.

Reports to ACT on the modular learning system, on the other hand, indicate that teachers are compelled to work longer hours on-site to print and reproduce modules that are mostly produced at the school, district, or division level, while modules from the regional and central offices remain scarce.

These will later be distributed to parents at school or by going to learners’ houses or communities.

“With the raging pandemic, what is DepEd doing to ensure that modular learning will be effectively implemented without putting in peril the health and safety of teachers, parents, learners, as well as other partners in delivering the materials?” demanded Basilio.

ACT feared that DepEd’s ‘incommensurate’ response to the pandemic and the worsening joblessness and poverty will result to the furthering of transmission among the population and the disenfranchisement of millions of children, even those who have enrolled who may likely drop out later.

“Our health care workers and facilities are beyond overwhelmed and demoralized. The Duterte administration has only proven its ineptitude and utter disregard for lives and rights over the last 6 months of the pandemic. DepEd should not aggravate the situation. Instead, it should ensure that education helps in more ways than one in Filipinos’ fight against COVID-19,” pressed Basilio.