On 1st day of F2F classes, 7th graders in Manila sit on floor due to alleged armchair shortage

August 23, 2022 - 1:56 PM
Classroom armchairs
Workers install a partition inside a classroom ahead of the resumption of face-to-face classes in a public school in Quezon City, Philippines, August 18, 2022. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Some grade school students in the city of Manila were spotted sitting on the floor instead of in armchairs on the first day of face-to-face classes after two years of distance learning.

A Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter on Monday shared a video of 43 seventh-grade students from Jose Abad Santos High School sitting Indian-style in a classroom due to the reported shortage of armchairs.

Although some armchairs were available, the teacher reportedly decided to have them all sit on the floor since the resource was not enough to accommodate them.

Another set of students from a different classroom at the same school was also reported sitting on chairs while other students were spotted sitting on the floor.

The incident happened on the first day when the majority of schools reopened their doors for in-person learning. This mode of learning will be fully implemented nationwide in November.

Currently, schools are implementing a combination of distance and in-person learning.

Meanwhile, the video and images of the seventh-grade students’ situation earned online attention.

“Students deserve better,” a Twitter user said in response to the report.

Another online user claimed that her older sister “had to spend 21k (21,000) from her pocket for the classroom facilities because the PROJECTORS and the ELECTRIC FANS in her room aren’t working.”

“Nakakaawa public schools. DepEd, pls. fix this,” she added.

Another Twitter user suggested for the education secretary to “set aside” the implementation of the mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or ROTC in the meantime.

“Focus on the lack of classrooms, facilities, and the lack of teachers in all public schools,” she wrote.

Vice President Sara Duterte has been vocal in her desire to make military service among the youth a requirement anew in the belief that it will develop a more “disciplined” and patriotic generation.

She previously said that the country needs “Filipino youths who will help the government in forging and fortifying peace and progress” in the Philippines.

Reports said the education department is in talks with the Commission on Higher Education on whether to allow the resumption of mandatory ROTC in senior high schools or in higher education institutions only.

In relation to the seventh-grade students’ situation on armchair shortage, another Twitter user recalled the department’s controversy involving “pricey” yet “outdated” laptops for teachers.

“This, habang may issue pa with the overpriced and unused laptops,” the user wrote, quote tweeting the video of students sitting on the floor.

The latest reports note that Sen. Francis Tolentino has invited former education secretary Leonor Briones and former Procurement Service-Department Budget and Management head Lloyd Christopher Lao to a hearing into the issue.

The suppliers, however, claimed that the laptops meet “all technical specifications imposed by the government.”

‘No shortage’ 

As of Tuesday, PDI reporter Jane Bautista said that Jose Abad Santos High School principal Edna Reyes denied the shortage of student armchairs for the following reasons:

  • Miscommunication with school janitors
  • Teachers “lacked the initiative” to get extra chairs from their suppliers
  • The students were just about to do an activity

“We have no shortage. There was just a miscommunication with the janitors who were cleaning but the chairs are enough,” Reyes was quoted as saying.

She added that the teachers “just lacked the initiative to get them, but the rest, they have chairs.”

DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa said that the school borrowed chairs from another school prior to the opening of classes.

Meanwhile, the Manila Public Information Office called the armchair shortage “fake news” and cited a statement released by the Division of City Schools–Manila in response to the report.

“The subject teacher showcased in the post uttered that she deliberately re-arranged the chairs to suit group activity for orientation and psychosocial support tasks,” it said.

It added that the school has more than enough chairs for the students, averaging 51 chairs per classroom for 62 instructional classrooms available.

“The Department of Education ensures a safe and smooth opening of classes. Though not perfect, we are doing our very best to ensure inclusive quality service delivery to our lifelong learners,” the statement continued.

Bautista, on the other hand, insisted that she and her editors  “stand by” the story after she was asked to issue a public apology about her “malicious” post.

“I have no intention to malign the school, DepEd or the authorities; I just reported what I witnessed, which is the lack of preparation for the students’ first day in school,” she tweeted, with a link to the full report.