Monday, September 27, 2021

Abellanosa: We’re not ready to resume face-to-face classes

Fringes and Frontiers

AGAINST a rather common clamor to resume face to face (F2F) classes, I would dare say that we are not ready for it. And when I say that we are not ready, I am referring to our lack of preparedness both in structural and attitudinal aspects.

While I see the importance of resuming face to face classes, what I don’t see is the effort on the part of both the government and the people to be ready for it. All we have are dreams and wishes for students and teachers to go back to the pre-pandemic situation. Sadly, it is apparent that there are not many preparations, if any, for whatever eventual resumption.

We have heard enough about our "being last" in doing F2F both in basic education and higher education. There is no point, however, listening again and again to propositions stating the obvious. What we should hear are the concrete plans and steps that have now been undertaken by the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) if there is or are any.

Among the important questions that must be answered are (or if they have been answered, then at least we must hear and know what the answers are): (1) what will be the teacher to student ratio once F2F begins, (2) will the population size be the same (especially in public schools) and what is our actual measure of compliance of physical distancing given our spacious classrooms in many public schools (sarcasm intended), (3) what safety and hygienic measures will be made available if not mandatory in schools; do public schools have functional faucets and enough soap for hand washing; where will students eat during snack time and lunch, (4) what will the school do if one student will be Covid-19 positive; what will be the contact tracing system, and (5) how will teachers be prepared to also act as safety and risk reduction officers?

We cannot just resume and then go back to all the practices we had prior to the pandemic. God forbid if our DepEd officials are imagining having a grand flag ceremony where all kids will be welcomed back to school. This may sound ridiculous but believe it or not this country has been very well known for doing a lot of ridiculous things.

But other than the lack of preparation in terms of the above mentioned points, people are also not ready for the opening of classes in terms of their attitudes. We see how slow we have been in religiously following proper physical distancing. Adults themselves are notorious violators of in-house safety and risk reduction protocols. This can be seen in how employees in many establishments refuse to follow company regulations on the wearing of masks.

If adults (and this includes teachers and other school personnel) are not even capable of following the basics of safety standards, how can we expect students to do the same. Apparently, there is so much temptation to once and for all force the president to allow schools to reopen. But truth be told, any insistence to pursue this proposal would really cost a lot.

When classes resume in schools, the country should be ready for a greater re-opening of the economy. Schools are driving forces in the market. We should expect tutorial centers to open. Tailoring shops as well as barber shops will once again be in demand. People will have to flood bookstores for their school supplies. Will the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) be willing to fully open the economy?


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