Virtual classes seen to add to parents’ financial burden

ANOTHER lawmaker has called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to postpone the resumption of classes this year, explaining resorting to virtual classrooms would only prejudice students, especially probinsyanos who are not equipped with e-learning gadgets and could not afford access to internet.

Ang Probinsyano party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong said giving schools the option to hold virtual classes also unnecessarily gives parents additional financial and emotional burden just to ensure that their children will not miss out on this school year amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“DepEd should just postpone the entire school year without any exception. Our policy should apply to all to avoid any confusion. We are unprepared for this crisis,” said Ong.

“Walang training ang marami sa ating mga teachers to hold online classes. My suggestion is the DepEd should use this time to properly re-tool their teachers and their system to adapt to the so-called new normal,” he stressed.

According to DepEd's Learning Continuity Plan (LCP) published May 11, 2020, "no face-to-face classes will be allowed earlier than August 24, 2020; and from August 24, face-to-face learning shall only be allowed when the local risk severity grading permits, and subject to compliance with minimum health standards.

Adoption of various learning delivery options such as but not limited to face-to-face, blended learnings, distance learnings, and homeschooling and other modes of delivery shall be implemented depending on the local COVID Risk Severity Classification and compliance with minimum health standards, it said

If DepEd decides to allow these online classes, Ong said probinsyano students in far-flung towns will ne affected by the system, saying many of them do not have access to reliable e-learning gadgets like smartphones, tablets and laptops, and stable internet connection.

“Sobrang hirap na ng buhay ng ating mga magulang sa panahon na ito ng COVID pandemic. Halos wala nang makain ang marami sa ating mga magulang dahil walang hanapbuhay habang naka-quarantine,” said Ong.

To avoid any confusion, Ong said DepEd should make an announcement this early so that parents would no longer be wasting precious resources to buy gadgets for their children.

Ong said no forecast is also available if any specific area will be under low risk severity this early, and so many parents have no choice but to secure e-learning technologies out of fear that their children may miss out when they themselves are already suffering financially due to this pandemic.

While one year is a lot of lost opportunities to learn and advance in the educational ladder, Ong said DepEd, along with many public and private schools are completely unprepared to conduct online classes, which may aggravate the country’s declining quality of education. Unlike first-world countries where internet is fast and cheap and parents can easily afford to buy gadgets for their children, the country is really not ready yet for a full shift to e-learning system.

Ong said that while DepEd is tweaking its system and while it is training its teachers to adapt to the challenges of the “new normal,” the government should also have its own social amelioration program (SAP) for teachers both in the public and private sector.

“Tulungan din po natin ang ating mga teachers, lalo na yung mga under sa No Work, No Pay scheme. At least sigurado natin na mapupunta sa pamilya nila, at hindi gagamitin sa ibang non-essential purchases ang SAP na maibibigay na lang sana sa mga teachers,” said Ong.