VALLADOLID, Negros Occidental -- BELIEVING that distance learning education does not work for Filipino schoolchildren, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is pushing for full face-to-face (F2F) classes in the country to resume in January 2022.
Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, said students are not learning well under the distancing learning modality that had been implemented amid the prevailing threat of coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
“There have been issues on who answers their examinations. We often hear cases that the ones answering are the parents or their neighbors,” he said, adding that it is difficult for the students to learn with distance learning, especially the modular method, compared to F2F classes.
The senator was in the province over the weekend for an ocular site visit and blessing of the training center and staff house of the Central Philippines State University (CPSU) Extension in this southern Negros Occidental town.
He also attended the first flag-raising ceremony of the extension campus, which will soon rise at the two-hectare property at the town’s Bagumbayan.
The state university, with its main campus in Kabankalan City, is also celebrating its 75th Jubilee.
Gatchalian, on the sidelines of the activity, told reporters that the limited F2F classes will start on November 15 this year with about 40 pilot schools that applied out of the 120 target schools nationwide.
Gatchalian said he is actually pushing to fill in the entire 120 schools and then after two months go back to F2F classes.
“We have to remember that this pilot testing is for us to learn where to adjust, know what is lacking, and identify where to put a budget to ensure safety among our schools,” he said, adding that “hopefully, I can see, we can go back to full face-to-face classes in January next year.”
As the 2022 budget of the Department of Education (DepEd) is being deliberated, the senator said making the schools safe for the children should be given priority.
Gatchalian said almost P300 million was allocated for the establishment of handwashing facilities. There should be handwashing stations in every school, he added.
Protocols also have to be in place like provision of face shields, masks and alcohol, the senator said, adding that “these are basic things that the schools need.”
Gatchalian is also pushing for the use of a nationwide alert system like that in the National Capital Region (NCR) and making it the basis for the F2F classes.
He cited that in Metro Manila, for example, which is under Alert Level 3, children can go out of their homes.
“So if they are allowed to go to the mall, they can also go to school,” he said, adding that “sooner or later, we will further go down to Alert Level 2 so the situation is better and the students can now frequently attend face-to-face classes.”
The official also expressed confidence that by that full F2F classes resume, more areas in the country, including Bacolod City and Negros Occidental, have already achieved herd immunity.
In Valenzuela City, he said, their vaccination is almost 85 percent already while Metro Manila at this point is 80 percent.
Gatchalian said in cities like Bacolod, Cebu and Davao, about 50 percent are already fully vaccinated.
“I think, it could reach the 80-percent target so we can already go back to face-to-face classes by that time,” he said.
As he expressed optimism that F2F classes will resume in the first month of 2022, the senator is calling on the DepEd to ensure readiness, especially on having fully vaccinated teachers.
Gatchalian is pushing for a special vaccination day for the teachers, noting that in some provinces only about 20 to 30 percent of the teachers are vaccinated against Covid-19.
“So how can the students go back to school if our teachers are not vaccinated thus, we are really pushing for 100 percent vaccination among our teachers,” he added.