August 23, 2022
MANILA, Philippines — Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte declared the opening of the new school year a “victory for basic education,” as school authorities lacking resources and even staff sought to improvise during the start of classes on Monday.
Speaking at Dinalupihan Elementary School in Bataan province, Duterte said the reopening of schools is one step the Department of Education (DepEd) “courageously made despite the challenges and fears brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Campuses were forced to shut down for two years because of the pandemic, as teachers and students struggled with the new mode of remote learning.
With schools opening once again, “this is also a victory for all the teachers, support staff, parents… and all education stakeholders,” Duterte said.
“We cannot make the lack of educational infrastructure or the inadequate number of classrooms in certain provinces another excuse to keep our children from schools,” she added.
Sitting on floorsThe problems she cited were also being experienced in Metro Manila, as some students had to sit on floors because there were not enough desk chairs, while covered courts were used as classrooms and partitioned to accommodate more classes.
At Pasay City West High School, junior and senior students had their classes at the school’s indoor court, which was divided into four sections. An audio-visual room was also used as a classroom.
School principal Peter Cannon Jr. acted as a one-man “information center,” attending to inquiries by students as well as parents.
“It’s difficult. I even had to sleep here in the school because we really need[ed] to monitor if there [are] problems,” he said.
At Jose Abad Santos High School in Tondo, Manila, an entire class of Grade 7 students was asked by their teacher to sit on the floor because the chairs in the classroom were insufficient.
School principal Edna Reyes insisted, however, that there were enough chairs.
“We have no shortage. There was just a miscommunication with the janitors who were cleaning but the chairs are enough,” she said.
She also noted that the teachers “just lacked the initiative to get them, but the rest, they have chairs.”
DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa, in a phone interview, said Jose Abad Santos borrowed chairs from another school prior to the opening of classes.
School authorities also had difficulty maintaining order among the students, as they were lined up for a temperature check and other health measures.
Airah Mae Gatdula, a college student who brought her cousin, a kindergarten pupil, to school, described the first day of classes as confusing.
“Maybe tomorrow it will be more orderly,” she said.
In her remarks, Duterte stressed: “We cannot afford to delay the learning of the Filipino students again. We need to return to in-person learning because… that way, they can learn meaningfully and be provided with quality education.”
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed the same view in a statement on Facebook, saying that “learning will be more effective inside classrooms where students fully interact with their teachers and fellow students.”
Sen. Grace Poe, in a statement, said: “We hope concerned agencies will make up for the hitches encountered on Day One of face-to-face classes and make the coming days pleasant for our learners.”
An infectious diseases expert said Filipinos living with children returning to school should consider wearing face masks at home.
“There’s increased mobility, so it’s inevitable. More will get sick, given that these kids might bring home the virus and it might spread there,” said Dr. Edsel Salvana, a member of the technical working group of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
He also noted that some students may be living with family members who have comorbidities.
“It is important that members of the vulnerable population, the elderly and persons with disabilities are vaccinated,” Salvana said.