Was it really a success?
Education Secretary Leonor Briones declared the opening of another school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic is a “success worthy of celebrating” but this was quickly countered by some Filipinos online.
The education chief on a school opening program on Monday said that the call to continue education triumphed over calls for lockdowns and closures.
“[The Department of Education] celebrates with great joy its success in opening classes for the second year in the time of COVID,” Briones said in a livestream aired on the Department of Education‘s Facebook page.
“We opened classes last year. We successfully ended them. Now we are opening another school year. Isn’t that success worthy of celebration?” she added.
“When we declared victory over COVID-19 last year, some people got angry. How can one declare victory in the time of COVID-19? For them, it was the worst time to feel victorious,” Briones further said.
Last year, she said that the opening of the school year despite the pandemic was a “victory” and that they wouldn’t allow COVID-19 to “destroy” children’s educations and their future.
Her remarks were made despite reports of teachers and students struggling to adjust to the distance learning setup due to internet and gadget problems, as well as module acquisition issues.
This school year, DepEd has moved the last day of enrollment for public schools from September 15 to September 30.
As of Wednesday, it has recorded a total of 26,308,875 enrollees from both public and private schools and in state or local universities and colleges. The figures also include early registrants as of June 2 of this year.
“Still and all, there is much success to celebrate and build on. We did what was considered impossible in 5 months. We translated printed [learning] materials into TV, radio, cell phone, tablet, and yes, utilized walkie-talkies for remote schools,” Briones said in the livestream.
“Today, we are opening the School Year 2021 to 2022 as we celebrate last year’s victory. The challenges we are facing now are even tougher than those we battled last year,” she added.
Part of the education chief’s remarks trended on local Reddit where some users disagreed with the opening of another school year as a “success worth celebrating.”
“My mom is a school principal under DepEd. She and the other teachers spend hours and hours of overtime to print out modules. Contrary to others’ beliefs, this is NOT easier work for the teachers. It is exhausting. Idk (I don’t know) why she has the audacity to claim everything is fine when she’s not the one thrown in the field,” a Reddit user claimed.
“Watching my younger brother struggle sa online class makes me wonder about how they see things,” wrote another Redditor in the comments.
“Meanwhile, she forgot about the ongoing plight of our learners with special needs, made worse by the pandemic (and) the shift to distance learning,” a different Reddit user claimed.
Others aired their comments on Twitter.
“Briones, hindi mo matatawag na success ang nakaraang school year at mas malong hindi ‘worthy of celebration’ ang pagbubukas ng panibagong school year ngayon kung marami pa ring napagiiwanang mga estudyante,” a Twitter user claimed.
“Hindi ito matagumpay kung mayroong mga estudyanteng napilitang mag-drop out at magtrabaho na lamang, mga estudyanteng huminto kasi walang pantustos para sa mga kailangan para sa online/modular learning,” the user added.
Various groups of educators were similarly unamused by Briones’ remarks as well.
Teachers’ Dignity Coalition chairperson Benjo Basas said that the lack of modules from the DepEd and internet allowance remained a problem for some teachers.
DepEd said that it wants schools to be less dependent on modules and to maximize the gadgets that were donated by local governments and partner organizations.
Meanwhile, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers also called for a safe reopening of physical classes, citing that the quality of education through distance learning is being “compromised.”
The Philippines and Venezuela are the only countries in the world that have yet to hold in-person classes.
As of Friday, Briones said that there are at least 100 public schools and 20 private schools which are ready to implement face-to-face classes.
Malacañang said that President Rodrigo Duterte had a “positive” reaction in response to DepEd’s latest proposal to hold limited pilot face-to-face classes in areas with a low number of COVID-19 cases.
The United Nations Children’s Fund has urged education authorities to reopen schools in light of the challenges brought by distance learning such as gadgets unavailability and poor internet.