Velez: School’s out


USUALLY this time, people would be preparing and get excited for school opening. But in this pandemic time, nobody wants to go to school.

Not the parents, who most of them have voiced their concern in the past week about sending their children back to school when the virus is still hovering around. This is one time that a parent agrees with the child.

Even if DepEd has pushed the school opening to August, there’s no comfort to think of the virus.

No vaccine, no mass testing, no school, that is what parents and even the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) have raised to education officials. Not when you risk the people getting infected, and when the national government or the task force is still on the definition of terms as to what is mass testing.

Public schools are the most problematic with the “new normal”. Before the pandemic, classes are crowded, teachers are overworked. There’s no clear program on how they will adapt. Online learning is a problem for both public school teachers and students, who face the same problem of lack of income to buy a laptop and gadgets. A student posted online to say, between spending 50 pesos for a day of Internet data or food, is this a hard choice?

Online schooling is also not favored. A news story from Japan showed teachers are exhausted doing this online teaching. What usually takes an hour of lecture for them now becomes a two or three-hour session, plus extra hours for preparation, and that leaves them exhausted.

This brings us to the case of Ateneo de Davao, which announced they will open the school in June, with gadgets, portable Wi-Fi and tablets given to less fortunate students. Will this work? Already there are questions? What about working scholars or IP scholars living in communities with a poor signal? What about law school that relies on recitation, or courses that do laboratory work?

Teachers and students agree that face-to-face learning, with the interaction, personal “feel” and adjustments, is still vital. But it’s not feasible now.

For once, President Duterte seems to get it right, that school may have to stop for a year. This is like wartime, he said, children’s safety is a priority.

But how do we spend time for children now? Perhaps homeschooling, or teaching them about things beyond classrooms and textbooks, talk about climate change, critical thinking, life skills, would help them know how to live the better normal.

What about teachers who are concerned about their income? Now that’s a question the government must respond to.

Perhaps Duterte should tell his officials to go back to learning math and English, to better calculate waves, mass testing statistics, and budgeting for social amelioration. But that will be another “Iskul Bukol” story.


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