Youth group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) has called on both parents and students to defy the orders of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Education (DepEd) to resume classes by August and September this year, respectively, amid the lack of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) mass testing in the country.
The group condemned the apparent railroading and business-as-usual attitude being displayed by the DepEd and CHED. It said the country education officials are ignoring government’s own data on the virus and the experiences of other countries, which hastily resumed classes after lifting quarantine measures.
The group warned of the danger posed by gradual reopening of classes on teachers, students and non-teaching school personnel citing the recent experiences of French and South Korean schools.
“Blended learning does not guarantee the health and safety of everyone in the school even if the agencies require only 50 percent of the class to attend in-person classes at any given time, especially when mass testing has not been fully done yet,” John Lazaro, SPARK spokesperson said.
The French Education Ministry recently reported 70 cases of Covid-19 cases among school children just one week after the gradual reopening of schools. Approximately 30 percent of French students had returned to in-person classes. Affected schools were immediately closed to prevent further infections among students and staff.
Meanwhile, in South Korea, two students were found to have contracted Covid-19, despite the strict health protocols installed to prevent the spread of the virus.
“One can only imagine how much worse it would be in the Philippines, with our backlog in mass testing alongside our poor health infrastructure,” Lazaro said.
“This is a tragedy waiting to happen. Until mass testing is not effectively carried out, let alone a vaccine, education officials are risking the lives of millions so that capitalist educators can keep their businesses running,” he said.
The group announced that they are willing to join hands with teachers’ associations, school unions, parent-teacher associations and public health and medical experts in defying the DepEd and CHED orders to resume classes, unless mass testing of all students, teachers and non-teaching personnel is done before the resumption of classes.
SPARK also called on the need for mass promotion of students, the suspension of online classes, and for school administrators to pay their personnel’s salaries even if the schools remain closed.