Nalzaro: Why risk the lives of our children?

·3 min read

I cannot fully understand why Department of Education (DepEd) officials insist on going back to face-to-face classes in selected areas with low risk of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) by next year. Is it because of the low quality of education under the modular learning? When did the DepEd ever provide high and quality education to our public school students? Every school year, the same old and perennial problems confront the public education sector.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said students are more likely to contract Covid-19 at home than at school, as the government prepares for the dry run of face-to-face classes in January.

“The lowest threat of Covid-19 infections is at the school. The big possibility of infection is at home because they spend most of their time at home and other places,” Briones said.

The United Nations Children’s Fund urged the government “to prioritize reopening schools and take all actions possible to make them safe as possible” since a recent global study using data from 191 countries “showed no association between school status and Covid-19 infection rates in the community.”

Which countries conducted these studies? Here in the country, we cannot make a comparison since there are no physical classes. All school children are at home, taking virtual or online, modular and blended learning. If face-to-face classes had been allowed, I’m sure transmission among school children would have been high.

This DepEd plan runs counter to the stay-at-home policy of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases by not allowing those under 15 years old to go outside except for tourism purposes. Now, the DepEd will allow school children to go back to school?

Schools in selected areas with a low risk of Covid-19 transmission will hold face-to-face classes from Jan. 12-23. The dry run will be monitored by the DepEd and the Covid-19 National Task Force. Although, the DepEd emphasized that face-to-face classes would be voluntary, thus a parent’s permission must be obtained for students to participate, President Duterte approved this proposal during a Cabinet meeting last Dec. 14. I don’t know why the President suddenly had a change of heart when he repeatedly said last June that “there will be no physical classes if there is no vaccine.” The DepEd 7 recommended Cebu Province and the divisions of the cities of Carcar, Bogo and Lapu-Lapu as pilot areas for the implementation of physical classes.

I may sound like a broken record but I will ask this question again. Why gamble? Various studies show that children are super-spreaders of the virus, although most of those infected were asymptomatic because they have a strong immune system. Can DepEd officials assure that school children will be safe inside the campus? As a parent, are you willing to risk the lives of your children in exchange for education? Again, education can wait. DepEd officials are using our children as experiments. Think it over.

Everyone has their own opinion and they’re entitled to them but there is no arguing that going back to face-to-face learning, even in selected areas with low Covid-19 cases, comes with gargantuan risks, not just for students but also for teachers, administrators, support staff and everyone’s families.

The main risk is that children will more likely contract Covid-19 in school and teachers will be exposed to and may become infected as well. Aside from the risk of infected children potentially becoming very ill, which is fortunately a rare occurrence, there is also the risk that the children will bring the virus home and infect family members. And what if the teachers are the ones who contract the disease and he/she transmit it to his/her students?

I hope DepEd officials will reconsider their stand on this matter. The blood of our children will be on the agency’s hand if something happens to them.