Education Secretary Leonor Briones declared that “victory over COVID-19” has been supposedly achieved as the nation officially begins its academic school year through distance learning amid the ongoing pandemic.
Classes officially started on Monday, the same day that the global community commemorates World Teachers’ Day which recognizes the works of educators including teachers, researchers and professors worldwide.
“Today, we celebrate a great victory. We declare our victory over COVID-19, the destroyer of our lives,” Briones was quoted as saying in the Department of Education‘s school opening program.
“We will not allow COVID-19 to destroy our children’s education and their future,” she added.
Briones also shared similar remarks according to a Facebook post that was uploaded by her department on Monday morning.
“In spite of the pandemic—with the outpouring support from our learners, teachers, stakeholders, and supporters, victory is assured for education. Today we claim victory,” the quote card reads.
WELCOME TO SCHOOL YEAR 2020-2021! 😊Sa suporta at tiwala ng mga guro, magulang, stakeholders, at mga mag-aaral,…
The post’s caption reiterated that this year’s school opening was successful with the help of different people in the community.
“Sa suporta at tiwala ng mga guro, magulang, stakeholders, at mga mag-aaral, matagumpay nating nailunsad ang pagbubukas ng klase. Napatunayan natin na sa ating pagtutulungan at ugnayan, ang pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon sa gitna ng pandemya ay nasa ating mga kamay,” the post said.
In her speech, Briones that continuous education would supposedly bring normalization to students’ activity and growth as a public health crisis rages on.
She also assured the public that DepEd will work hard to ensure that learning will continue despite the expected challenges.
The education sector saw more than 24 million students enrolled in the basic education system this year. Around 22.5 million of them are enrolled in public schools.
This is equivalent to only around 89% of last year’s enrollees, which means that some three million students may have dropped out of school.
Various methods of distance learning will be implemented as face-to-face classes are suspended while the country faces a surge in COVID-19 cases. Last week, the nation entered the Top 20 list of countries with the most number of infections despite months-long lockdown measures.
Methods for learning include digital learning where classes will be conducted in online platforms and through television and radio broadcasts.
Offline learning, meanwhile, involves the students learning through printed modules which will be provided by teachers or to be received by their parents.
‘Battle is not yet over’
Briones’ words about the education sector declaring “victory” over COVID-19 earned criticisms from some social media users who pointed out that the current academic setup is not a victory for those who cannot enroll and those who continue to face challenges due to limited resources.
“What victory against COVID-19 is Sec. Briones talking about? The fact that schools are closed is a huge FU, saying the battle is not yet over,” a lawyer tweeted in response to her remarks.
“Kumustahin mo naman sana ‘yung mental health naming mga estudyante at mga teachers. Anlakas mo makapagsabi ng VICTORY diyan pero may mga estudyante pa ring hirap makapagpasa ng requirements dahil sa bagal ng internet connection. Manahimik ka Briones,” wrote another Twitter user.
“Ma’am, victory is when students are finally back at school learning and not doing online classes/modules,” a Filipino said with an upside-down smiling emoji.
“What ‘victory’ does Liling Briones even mean? Our students are having breakdowns due to stress in online classes, and some of our teachers literally climb mountains and cross rivers to deliver modules! Secretary of EDUCATION pero walang alam sa kalagayan ng edukasyon sa bansa!” exclaimed League of Filipino Students spokesperson James Carwyn Candila.
How students and teachers are faring
Despite Briones’ words on supposedly claiming “victory,” reports of teachers and students struggling amid the new setup continue to appear on social media regularly.
Zambales teachers on Sunday were reported to cross rivers while riding a wooden sled in an attempt to deliver modules for their students.
A grade-schooler also caught the online community’s attention after his aunt created a makeshift study area for him in the middle of a pastureland due to poor signal.
Other students were forced to borrow smartphones to attend the virtual classes due to limited resources.
Last month, the hashtag “#AcademicFreezeNOW” gained traction after students and teachers shared their struggles amid the distance learning setup.
Some students have allegedly resorted to selling lewd photos online in exchange for financial resources.
A survey revealed that parents’ primary concerns for distance learning are the lack of gadgets, insufficient mobile data allowance and an unstable internet connection.
Vice President Leni Robredo has proposed that DepEd implement physical classes to areas without COVID-19 transmission.
She said classes can be conducted twice a week, with a limited number of students and teachers focusing on core competencies “like reading, math and science.”