Cabaero: After class suspensions, what?

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Cabaero: After class suspensions, what?

One of the Department of Education (DepEd) measures to lessen the impact of a strong El Niño was to allow school administrators to decide on the suspension of onsite classes without waiting for directives.

Administrators have the authority to suspend onsite classes and shift to alternative delivery modes “in cases of extreme heat and other calamities that may compromise the health and safety of learners, teachers, and non-teaching personnel,” the DepEd had said.

The instruction was for schools to set up alternative ways to continue the education of their students given the learning disruption. Setting up the alternatives and making fresh arrangements for the students and at home would require time, money and effort, but the effects of the El Niño are already here.

Reports said that, as of last Friday, April 5, a total of 5,288 schools suspended onsite classes due to the extreme heat. Some 3.6 million students were affected by the class suspensions.

During the pandemic, classes were held online with students needing internet and a laptop or smartphone to participate. Other modes were through modules picked up and submitted to the schools or via radio and television broadcasts.

While students and parents have tried it in the past, it does not mean they could easily revert to those arrangements because whatever they had during the pandemic may no longer be available for their use. Teachers must also prepare their materials again for online, broadcast, or through modules. If there were an El Niño plan, the alternatives would have already been in place.

And, given the warnings of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) that heat indexes rising over 40 or close to 50 degrees Celsius may continue to May or June, there is no date as to when onsite classes may resume.

A report on Jan. 20, 2024, asked the question, “Is the Philippines prepared for El Niño?” It reported that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. created in December last year the Task Force El Niño led by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. The task force’s key priority issues are water, food, power, health and public safety.

“What the El Niño action plan team is now doing is to minimize any impact on water, electricity, food and health,” Environment Undersecretary Carlos Primo David was quoted in the report. “These indirectly relate to jobs and commodity prices.” There was no mention of education.

There are ways for schools to prepare for a long and brutal dry spell. Among them are to disallow any outdoor activity until later in the afternoon, ensure adequate ventilation in classrooms and the provision of electric fans, make drinking water available and free, do away with uniforms and allow t-shirts and shorts, and reduce the number of students per class. Preparations such as these should have been made early.


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