Prolonged class suspension will put ‘strain on already failing economy’ – group
MANILA, Philippines – A group of private schools on Tuesday, May 26, said that prolonged class suspension will “strain and put more pressure on our already failing economy.”
"Suspending school openings indefinitely until the vaccine is found indeed alleviates pressure on our healthcare systems [in the short] term. But certainly this will strain and put more pressure on our already failing economy," Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea) managing director Joseph Noel Estrada said in a statement.
Estrada was reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement close to midnight on Monday, saying unless a coronavirus vaccine was available, he would not allow children to physically attend classes. (READ: 'Bakuna muna': Duterte rejects August opening of classes)
"It's useless to be talking about [the] opening of classes. Para sa akin, bakuna muna (For me, there has to be a vaccine first)," Duterte said.
The President's decision departs from Education Secretary Leonor Briones' earlier announcement that classes for school year 2020-2021 would resume on August 24 – a call approved by the government's task force on the coronavirus last May 11.
Cocopea is composed of more than 2,500 educational institutions in the country, and serves as the "unifying voice of private education in the Philippines."
Hurting economy more
According to Cocopea, prolonged class suspension means that parents of 27 million basic education students would need to stay at home to take care of their children and not be able to work.
"This would affect the economic abilities of families to support their daily needs and they would turn to the government for ayuda (cash aid)," Estrada said.
Estrada also said that a lack of graduates would also create a lack of needed professionals for the country, especially in health care and other front line fields.
He also feared that teachers would leave the profession to pursue other work elsewhere.
Last April, Estrada told Rappler that a total of 409,757 teachers, faculty, and school personnel in private educational institutions nationwide are currently affected by the enhanced community quarantine. (READ: Over 400,000 private school employees affected by lockdown – group)
"They are either receiving reduced pay now or they are no longer being paid at all due to the 'no work no pay' scheme," Estrada said.
According to Estrada, while public school personnel are guaranteed their salaries even with suspended classes, over half a million private school personnel are not.
"They too are already suffering economically and their families as well. Again, economic pressure is on the government," Estrada said.
Education is an "essential activity"
Estrada said that the Department of Education (DepEd) has been working on delivering education through modes other than in-person meetings. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education ‘only for those who can afford’)
"Health remains to be a top priority, but isn’t it why we are all working to deliver education through modes other than face-to-face?" he asked.
Estrada added: "Education is an essential activity, and a critically affected sector. It needs to continue. And it needs government support."
“It would save the government more to fund online and distance education of students in both public and private schools, than providing financial support to those who would be economically displaced if education is indefinitely stalled,” Estrada said.
As the government limits face-to-face interaction and prohibits mass gatherings, DepEd’s blended learning approach would be implemented with students learning from online, television, radio, and printed materials. (READ: PCOO offers gov't TV, radio stations to deliver lessons – Briones)
In areas where classes would be conducted in person, DepEd said that physical distancing and health safety protocols should be observed. – Rappler.com