Quirino gov urges DepEd to 'fine-tune' alternative modes of education

THE governor of one of the four provinces with zero COVID-19 cases raised concerns that the conduct of face-to-face classes would lead to a surge of cases, and on Friday said the Department of Education (DepEd) should instead focus on fine-tuning alternative modes of education to ensure that the Filipino youths continue learning despite the outbreak.

Quirino Gov. Dax Cua said many local government unit (LGU) executives  believe the government should uphold the right of students to education, but are wary of the public health risks associated with the conduct of face-to-face classes.

"Of course we want the children in our jurisdictions to continue learning, but our primary concern will always be their safety and the lives of our constituents," said Cua, who is also president of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP).

Quirino is one of four provinces that are COVID-19 free. The other three provinces are Aurora, Batanes, and Dinagat Islands.

The Department of Education has recommended the conduct of limited face-to-face classes in "low-risk areas" starting January 2021 so long as adequate facilities were in place.

Cua pointed out that the term "low-risk area" means that the risk of spreading the virus in a given area may be reduced––but is still present.

"Miniscule or not, a risk is a risk. I believe we cannot take chances when it comes to the lives of our children, or with the lives of their families. While a small percentage of those actually infected are children, there is still much we do not understand about the virus, and health experts have admitted this," said Cua.

"Sa ibang bansa, dumadami na ang kaso ng mga bata na nagkakaroon ng Covid-19. Bagamat konti pa ang mga bata dito sa Pilipinas na nagka-Covid, I believe that it is better to be safe than sorry. Tingin ko tama pa rin si Presidente nung sinabi nya na habang walang vaccine, wala munang face-to-face classes."

President Rodrigo Duterte had stated in May that he was not in favor of resuming classes until a vaccine is available.

Cua lamented that with an average of almost 2,000 new COVID-19 cases per day in the country, LGU chiefs should remain vigilant in order to help contain the outbreak and ensure that their areas remain Covid-free.

"I believe the national government and the IATF are doing the right thing by continuing to discourage mass gatherings in the country. Allowing students to congregate in schools for face-to-face classes, in my view, is akin to mass gatherings; even with precautions in place, you will have parents going to schools bringing and picking up their children, and enforcing social distancing may be very difficult in those situations," warned the University of the Philippines alumnus. 

The former legislator stressed that at this point the DepEd "should focus on fine-tuning alternative modes of education on the assumption that face-to-face classes will not be a viable option in the foreseeable future."

"The virus is here and until we eradicate it, we have to adapt. Everyone is still worried about the virus; in a survey conducted at the beginning of July, 85% of those polled said they were still worried about contracting Covid-19. The fear is still there, and under this atmosphere we should understand that no parent would send their children to schools for face-to-face classes."

In a survey conducted by SWS from July 3 to 6, 85% of the 1,555 adult Filipinos surveyed in the country said they were worried they would catch Covid-19. The concern is highest in the National Capital Region, where 92% said they were worried that they would get infected, followed by Luzon at 87%, Visayas at 85%, and Mindanao at 77%.