“We declare our victory over COVID-19, the destroyer of our lives, the destroyer of our economy and of our way of life and society. But we will not allow COVID-19 to destroy our children’s education and their future,” said Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones in a televised speech.

The ‘victory’ claim of Briones earned negative statements from various groups. Back to School Network and Bayan Quezon City held a discussion and a protest in Quezon City.

Photo by Akira Liwanag

“Paano nasabi ng DepEd at ni Duterte na tagumpay ang pagbubukas ng klase kung sa ngayon ay nararanasan natin ang pinakamababang bilang ng naka-enrol na estudyante sa higit 5 taon at pinakamataas na dropout rate dahil sa distance learning at lockdown,” said Impas.

[How did the DepEd and Duterte find the reopening of classes as victorious when right now we are experiencing the lowest number of enrolled students in more than 5 years and the highest dropout rate because of distance learning and lockdown.]

“Hindi ito tagumpay para sa kanila at mas lalo lang silang nahirapan dito,” League of Filipino Students Metro Manila chairperson Vincent Impas affirmed.

[This is not a victory for the students driven to not enroll and those having to undergo distance learning suffer more.]

“Kami ay tumututol sa kasalukuyang sistemang pinapapairal ng DepEd sa usaping edukasyon kung saan direktang nagpapahirap sa ordinaryong mamamayan at ordinaryong estudyante lalo na sa mahihirap na komunidad,” Bayan Quezon City spokesperson Carmelita Collado stressed.

[We are against the current system imposed by DepEd regarding education that absolutely deprives ordinary people and students most especially to the marginalized living in communities.]

For example, a senior high school student and PAGTUON Quezon City convener Matthew Ivan Supan lamented over the difficulties he encountered while having online classes.

“Mayroon naman akong laptop, mayroon ding internet. Pero nagkakaroon pa rin ng problema regarding sa connection. Tsaka hindi rin naman lahat ay kayang magkaroon ng laptop at internet, paano naman sila?”

[I have a laptop and internet, but I still encounter problems regarding connection. And besides, not all have access to laptop and internet. What about them?]

Matthew is currently enrolled in a private school, in which their classes began on August 24.

From the noise in the community, to internet access, and laptop problems were some difficulties Matthew stressed.

“Lagi rin niyang kino-complain sa akin na sobrang ingay ng paligid. Hindi naman natin maiiwasan iyon sa amin dahil maingay naman na noon pa lang,” Conie Narez, Matthew’s mother, further shared.

[He always complained about the noise around. It is unavoidable knowing that it has been noisy in our area since then.]

“Saka maghapon siyang nakatutok sa laptop, masama rin ‘yong radiation mula rito,” Conie added.

[He was also facing his laptop all day, the radiation it omits is likewise bad]

In UP Manila, Impas stated that there were medical programs which needed face-to-face mode of class instruction but were now shifted through distance learning.

 “Ang pagkokonsulta po sa mga pasyente ng mga physical therapist for example ay ginagawa sa online na sobrang hirap para sa kanila,” Impas said.

[Patient consultation with physical therapists, for example, is being done online which is difficult for them.]

Impas also said there were reports of more activities being given or learning becoming more difficult as students were to learn on their own.

“Dati wala naman sila masyadong ginagawa sa ilang partikular na subjects, pero dahil sa paglipat sa modang ito ay mas marami na ang kailangan nilang gawin,” Impas added.

[There was nothing much to do before in some particular subjects, but because of shifting through this learning mode, there have been abundant activities to accomplish.]

On the other hand, Joshua Sales of Back to School Network argued about “essentiality” as to how the government prioritized the reopening of Boracay, Baguio, Tagaytay and malls for leisure while the schools remained closed.

“Kung titingnan natin ang ginawa ng ating gobyerno, nabuksan nga nila ang ilang tourist spots at magpadalo pa ng mga sibilyan. Pero bakit kaya hindi nila ginagawan ng paraan ang pagbubukas ng paaralan para magkaroon ng face-to-face classes?” Sales lamented.

[If we are going to look at what the government is doing, they have recently opened the tourist spots for leisure among civilians. But why can’t they make actions to open the schools to have face-to-face classes?]

Photo by Akira Liwanag

Teachers hosting the “Handang Isip, Handa Bukas School Opening National Day program” introduced Briones, saying her message would speak on how the department triumphantly reopened classes safely.

DepEd marked the formal class opening with an opening program, DepEd officials and guests also joined panel discussions on Oplan Balik Eskwela (OBE), Health and Safety Protocols, and Education Continuity, and other pressing matters to fully inform the public of the Department’s initiatives for the school year.

“Indeed, nothing can get in the way of the instructions and formations of our learners — not even the pandemic. This time also ushers us in a new era in our basic education program as we now ventured into distance and online learning,” President Rodrigo Duterte said in a recorded message.

The DepEd noted that this is the first time in Philippine history that the entire basic education system will forego face-to-face classes and adopt various distance learning modalities as modes of instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learners will start their classes for SY 2020-2021 through either modular, TV- or radio-based instruction, online, or a combination of the said modalities.

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