Pacete: No school until it is safe

As I See It

WHEN I was still in college, my parents reminded me always, “Finish your course. It is your only way out from the hacienda hard work. Education is the solitary wealth we can provide you. We are not rich and you cannot afford to stay forever in the semi-feudal structure.”

Really, education plays an important role in the transformation of the individual. Parents want their children to be in school for their bright future. The situation now under the reign of Covid-19 is exceptional. Death claims lives every day because the cadaverous virus we are fighting cannot be seen.

We hope that our experts in the field of medicine could provide us the right cure for Covid-19 sooner. In the absence of the proper medicament, we cannot afford to expose our children to the public. In our area there is no massive testing yet. We do not know who among us are asymptomatic, the walking carriers and hosts of Covid-19.

DepEd contemplates to open school-year 2020-2021 on August 24. This is very risky because we have not flattened the curve yet. After May 31, airports and seaports will be opened. The boundaries between Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental will be unlocked... back to normal, the new normal. I have my doubts if all of us could follow the protocol on hygiene under the new normal.

I am not a doomster and I do not want children to take the risk of going back to school if they are not vaccinated with anti-Covid 19 medicine. Allowing them to go to school is just like exposing them to a field loaded with booby traps. We love our children and we don’t want them to die for one reason that they are missing school.

Granting that the teachers and the children are in school already and a few become ill... and three or five have been diagnosed later as Covid-19 positive, who will pay for the hospitalization of the patients? Those who are positive, as a matter of protocol, will go direct to the isolation section of the hospital. Parents will be informed later and cannot even go near their children. Parents have to spend for the treatment... or the cremation if the victims are unlucky.

When our children are in school together with their classmates, there is no assurance that social distancing will be strictly observed. Teachers are not always around to remind the children. The kids love bonding and touching each other, especially the preschoolers and the primary pupils. On their way home, they will be passing by places and they will be meeting people who could be carriers of the virus.

In this pandemic, most parents tighten their belts and prioritize their money for food and medicine. Sending their children to school would mean extra expense ... tuition fee, matriculation, uniforms, books and other school supplies. Some parents are out of work and those belonging to low-income bracket are living on hand-to-mouth existence. They are not even sure on what to eat tomorrow.

DepEd has the option to replace the regular classroom setting by using modern technology... virtual education. Probably some parents can afford internet connection, the use of laptop and desktop. This is possible but this is easier said than done. We could train our intelligent teachers but I still doubt if this could be sustained. We had bad experience on text to teach and modular teaching using the television sets donated by the government and the TV stations.

If schools will really open on August 24, DepEd will be obliged to implement disinfecting measures for the safety of the children. They have to be done to avoid the new wave of contagion. Even President Digong said that he may not be able to do much if there is going to be a second wave. The world’s experience on the second wave of the Spanish Flu was worst. Let us not wait for the worst to come.

DepEd will buy additional equipment and teachers will have additional work: protective equipment for all (teachers and children); upon entrance, disinfect shoes, bags whole body; checking of proper facial mask; construction of hand washing stations and purchase of ozone machines for thorough sanitation; and thermal scanning to check body temperature.

Most classrooms in public schools are small. Proper public distancing could possibly accommodate only less than 20 students. There should be proper hand washing at the end of every period...gallons of alcohol will be made available. Areas inside the cafeterias would be hard to manage considering that only 30 minutes is allotted for recess. Every weekend, class rooms, toilets, and school offices should be disinfected as part of health protocol.

Schools should have isolation room for children suspected of having Covid-19 symptoms before they are tested by trained doctors. Some upland schools do not even have proper clinics. If in one school with 3,000 children, 3 or 5 have been identified with Covid-19, is DepEd going to close the school? How fast can rapid testing be applied? How fast can tracing be done? How fast can treatment be administered? We appreciate the urge of DepEd for education but we have to consider that our schools are not sophisticated.

Our teachers as government employees have their silent apprehensions and most of them are parents also. The superintendents, supervisors, principals and department heads are just the loyal servants and they have little means of saying no to what DepEd wants. Whatever is the strategy in teaching, we will accept that... face to face learning, distance learning, blended learning, with book or without. All of these are good. Our only request is, “Do not open the schools until we are convinced that our children are safe.”


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