YOUTH group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) has called on both parents and fellow students to dismiss the orders of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Education (DepEd) to resume classes by August and September respectively amid the lack of mass testing in the country.
The group condemned the apparent railroading and business-as-usual attitude being displayed by the DepEd and CHED. They say the officials are dismissive of the government’s own data and the experiences of other nations who hastily resumed classes after lifting quarantine measures too soon.
They warn 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% of the class to attend in-person classes at any given time, especially when mass testing has not been fully done yet,” said John Lazaro, spokesperson of SPARK.
The French Education Ministry last week reported 70 cases of COVID-19 cases among schoolchildren just one week after the gradual reopening of schools. Approximately 30% 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 vented.
“This is a tragedy waiting to happen,” Lazaro said. “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”.
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 and require the mass testing of all students, teachers and non-teaching personnel before the resumption of classes.
SPARK likewise reiterated the need for mass promotion, the suspension of online classes and for school administrators to compensate their personnel as the resumption of classes remains disputable and quarantine measures observed.