Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is pushing for full face-to-face classes by January 2022 or earlier, saying the distance learning modality is not working.
Gatchalian attended the first flag-raising ceremony of the Central Philippine State University extension campus and the blessing of the CPSU training center and staff house in Valladolid, Negros Occidental, on Saturday, October 23.
CPSU’s main campus in Kabankakan City headed by its president, Dr. Aladino Moraca, is also celebrating its 75th founding anniversary.
“The difficulty with distance learning is that our students do not absorb their lessons. They are not learning and we’ve seen that,” Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, said.
“There are also issues of who are answering the student’s exams. We often hear cases that the ones answering are the parents or the neighbors so the children do not learn,” he said.
The trial run for face-to-face classes kicks off on November 15. This will pave the way for the full face-to-face classes hopefully by January, he said.
The target pilot schools are about 120 and so far about 40 have applied, Gatchalian said. He did not say if some will be in Negros Occidental.
“I’m pushing for about 120, then hopefully after two months, we can go back to full face-to-face classes,” he said.
The pilot testing is meant to find out where adjustments should be made and where the budget should be allocated, Gatchalian said.
A P300 million budget has been allocated for the start of the face-to-face classes, he added.
The schools should have ample hand washing facilities and must implement basic health protocols like wearing of face masks and face shields when necessary, he said.
“If schoolchildren do not have these (face masks) we should provide them, including alcohol supply, barriers and other essentials to protect them against COVID-19,” he said.
In preparation for face-to-face classes he is also calling on the Department of Education to hold a special day for vaccination of teachers, Gatchalian said.
In some provinces only 20 to 30 percent of the teachers have been vaccinated, he is pushing for 100 percent, he said.
The senator also said the Department of Health’s Alert Level System can be used as the basis for approving the applications of schools for face-to-face classes.
Alert levels assigned to local government units (LGUs) should help determine what schools should be opened after the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes, he said.
“If businesses and industries can be managed by alert levels, I think school openings should also be based on alert levels. Because the concept here is to go back as normal as possible, and the alert levels give a granular approach to normalcy,” Gatchalian said.
He said generally the COVID-19 cases are going down nationwide. “I believe we’re on the way to a manageable level,” Gatchalian said.
Local governments like Bacolod, Cebu and Davao have currently vaccinated 50 percent of their target populations, and before the end of 2021 they may reach 80 percent, he said, to achieve herd immunity.
The Senate is currently taking up the general appropriations act for next year and Malacanang has proposed more than P773 billion for DepEd, the biggest among government agencies.
“The priority is how to make our schools safe,” he said.
Gatchalian also stressed the need for health experts to start looking into the possibility of administering COVID-19 booster shots after six to eight months, especially for frontline health workers.
Many countries like the United States and Israel, have already allowed the inoculation of booster shots after noting the lowering of anti-bodies after six to eight months, he said.*