A Catholic educator in the southern Philippines has voiced concerns over what he perceived as the government’s lack of clear pronouncements on the opening of schools this year.
Marist Brother Manuel De Leon of Notre Dame of Kidapawan College said authorities should come up with an official declaration rather than “confusing messages.”
On May 25, President Rodrigo Duterte said he does not favor the opening of classes until a vaccine against COVID-19 is available.
“No one will go to school unless I am sure they are really safe…. No more classes, only playtime,” said the president.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque, however, later said that classes will start on August 24 as long as “minimum standards for health are in place.”
Brother De Leon said an official policy from the government “will allow the schools and the parents to adjust and make plans according to the prevailing situations.”
“Realities vary in different parts of the country. Guidelines and directives from the government must be cohesive yet flexible, facilitative, not restrictive,” he said.
He called on educators and policymakers, to have “a paradigm shift in terms of the purpose of education considering the new realities brought about by the pandemic.”
Brother De Leon said he agrees that the health security and safety of the children and school personnel “should be the primary consideration during the time of the pandemic.”
“We cannot expose the children… to the danger of the deadly virus by opening schools even if we know that the cases of infection are on the rise,” he said.
The country’s Education department and the Commission on Higher Education have been trying to find ways to allow students to continue with their education amid the pandemic.
One proposal is the “flexible learning system” that uses the “combined online and offline” teaching and learning methods depending on the availability of internet connections.
Commissioner Prospero de Vera of the Commission on Higher Education earlier said his office will roll out a training program for teachers.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology is set to conduct an assessment of the school, teachers, and the students’ internet connectivity.
De Leon said that while the government is trying to ensure that “learning continuity plans” are in place, “the reality is that there are more questions being raised than answers.”
“In fact, the more they try to give solutions, the more challenging questions arise,” he said.