Schools opt to cancel graduation, end early

AS THE coronavirus disease (Covid-19) continues to spread, one university in Cebu City has decided to cut short its school year, another postponed its commencement exercises, while an educational institution in Dumaguete City canceled graduation rites in all levels.

University of Cebu (UC) president Augusto W. Go issued a memo on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, directing all UC campuses to hold final examinations from March 16 to 19 and conclude classes on March 20 instead of May 16, as indicated on the school calendar in their website.

For its part, Southwestern University (SWU) Phinma declared on March 10 that graduation rites for Basic Education and Senior High School have been moved to May 20; Medical School, June 18; Tertiary level, July 27; and Law and Graduate School, July 28.

Meanwhile, Silliman University in Dumaguete City called off Honors Day and graduation rites from pre-school to post-graduate levels.

With the rise in Covid-19 cases in the country over the last five days, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the objective now is to delay the epidemic peak to be able to mobilize resources.

This may be done through “social distancing,” which means avoiding crowds and keeping oneself at least an arm’s length away from other people.

Duque also cited proposals of work-from-home arrangements and reiterated the Department of Health (DOH) advice against holding events that attract large crowds.

For the labor sector, the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) has called for a “worker-first” policy to protect employees in company decisions, in the wake of the Covid-19 threat.

Rene Magtubo, PM national chairman, asked the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) to issue a department order embodying a “worker-first” policy, as placing the interests of workers first is an “urgent necessity.”

The social distancing method might pose a problem as Duque admitted that implementing it will be a challenge among the poor and daily commuters.

“Ako na po mismo ang umaamin sa inyo na yung pagtugon namin sa ating mga mahihirap na mga kababayan, yung mga informal sectors, yung mga sumasakay po sa mass public transport, talagang napakalaking hamon po ito (I have to admit that to the less privileged members of society, those in the informal sector and those who take public transportation, social distancing is a big challenge),” Duque told members of the House committee on health in response to the observation of Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate on crowded train stations in Metro Manila.

A total of 49 Covid-19 cases has been recorded in the Philippines as of Wednesday, March 11, 2020, with 30 of these confirmed only in the last five days.

No entry after exams

In a statement, the Department of Education (DepEd), too, has ordered schools “to implement social distancing measures for the remaining days of the school year.”

DepEd 7 Director Salustiano Jimenez in a phone interview said students in Central Visayas after taking the final exams will not be allowed in the school and can only return for graduation rites.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) followed up with a directive enjoining parents to keep their children at home and prevent them from going to the mall and other crowded areas.

According to Rudy Aviles, UC director for Students Cultural Service, a meeting among school heads will be held on March 12 to discuss remedial actions to deal with the current health concern. As to the graduation ceremonies, Aviles said they will wait for the results of the school heads meeting.

SWU Phinma, on the other hand, discourages family members of graduates coming from countries identified as Covid-19 hotspots from attending the ceremony. “You may watch it online via livestream in our official facebook page @swuphinma, “ the announcement said.

At the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu, chancellor Liza Corro issued on March 10 a memo stating the university’s “pre-emptive measures” ordering UP faculty members “to shift to blended learning and adjust their pedagogy to virtual learning platforms in the event of class suspensions.” (WBS, MVI, JCT, USJ-R Intern Mae Fhel Gom-os)