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Academic Break, hiling ng mga mag-aaral sa buong bansa

Nagsagawa ng student strike ang mga grupo ng mag-aaral mula sa iba’t-ibang unibersidad at kolehiyo sa Gate 2 ng Ateneo De Manila University sa Katipunan, Quezon City bilang bahagi ng International Students Day, Nobyembre 17, 2020.

Pangunahin nilang hiling na magkaroon ng national academic break dahil sa sunud-sunod na sakuna na dumaan sa bansa gayundin ang mga pahirap na sistema sa online classes. Ang academic break, ayon sa kanila, ay maagang deklarasyon ng pagtatapos ng semestre at mass promotion ng mga estudyante.

Binatikos din nila ang Pangulong Duterte dahil sa kriminal na kapabayaan nito na tugunan ang pandemya, edukasyon at sakuna. # (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

Lockdown learning: Making education accessible despite the pandemic

This five-episode podcast was produced by UrbanisMO.PH and Young Public Servants with support from Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Philippines, International Center for Innovation, Transformation, and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov) and PCIJ.

BY AARON MALLARI / Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

What’s the big picture? Education stakeholders agree that learning must continue, even through blended learning, despite the Covid-19 outbreak. Teachers and learners, however, have to contend with problems in internet access and more needs to be done to ensure that no student is left behind. Blended or distance learning also presents opportunities for innovation in instruction.

Why it matters: Continued learning can help mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the development of young children, who are forced to stay at home.

What are the facts? Dr. Grace Zozobrado-Hahn, a physician and Steiner-Waldorf Education practitioner based in Palawan, says children face their own set of challenges during the pandemic, while Regina Sibal, former principal of Miriam College Grade School and Far Eastern University Senior High School, outlines measures that the government and the education sector need to take to ensure continued access to education. Elsa Magtibay, a school administrator at Xavier School in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, points to opportunities to improve educational delivery.

The bottomline: Experts agree: Education must adapt to the so-called ‘new normal,’ which entails the government to take the lead and support teachers and parents as they take on bigger roles.

Governor apologizes after accusing teachers of ‘doing nothing’

Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba was forced to issue an apology following his accusation that teachers are doing less work with the government’s blended learning scheme.

Mamba told radio station DZRH Saturday that “teachers are simply enjoying themselves at home and receiving salaries without working.”

Mamba added that he thinks that the government is being shortchanged and hinted that teachers’ salaries may be slashed soon.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) president Joselyn Fegalan said Mamba had no right to accuse teachers of doing less work as teachers are in fact burdened by greater workload due to the Department of Education’s blended learning scheme.

“Teachers deserve an apology. You go back to that radio station and say sorry,” Fegalan said.

Mamba is ignorant of the situation of teachers even in his home province, ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio added.

“It seems he does not know that many teachers spend their already inadequate salaries to buy paper, laptops, printers and ink because the government has yet to fully provide these,” he said.

“Gov, it’s World Teachers Day on Monday (today, October 5) and this is your message to them? Is this how you thank them?” Basilio asked.

The Student Council of the University of the Philippines College of Education also condemned Mamba’s remarks as “patently insensitive, infuriating and disrespectful of the teachers’ effort to educate amid the pandemic.”

‘Just being fatherly’

Mamba in a statement Sunday he is sorry and did not mean to hurt any teacher, adding he wanted to challenge everyone with his remarks.

In another DZRH interview Sunday, Mamba said he has high regard for teachers as shown by his administration’s involvement of teachers in provincial government projects.

Mamba added he was just being fatherly in lecturing just as he was in admitting mistakes.

A source from Mamba’s camp told Kodao that the interviewer did not give the governor a chance to fully explain what he meant as the interview was at its end. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

For kids in special education, lockdown learning a must

By Winona Sadia/Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

Learners with special education needs require face-to-face instruction but are vulnerable to the coronavirus disease. Parents and teachers have no choice but to make distance learning work.

As the clock ticked closer to 10 a.m., Elena Elpedez cleared the dining table to make way for her son’s online class simulation. Ten-year-old Enzo, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, has the entire makeshift study area for himself for a good hour. Excited, Enzo set up his Zoom account to meet up with his classmates and teachers, albeit virtually.

Despite the difficulties of distance learning amid the coronavirus pandemic, Elena did not think twice about enrolling her bunso (youngest child) this school year for special education or SPED at Parang Elementary School in Marikina. It was better, she said, than letting months pass without Enzo learning anything.

Elena left her business process outsourcing job in 2015, as soon as she realized the need to supervise Enzo’s schooling and therapy. She then put up a printing business at their house to augment her income. During the lockdown, Elena recycled reviewers and worksheets from customers to refresh Enzo with what he had learned the previous school year.

Elena prints out recycled worksheets to help Enzo continue learning during quarantine. Photograph: Winona Sadia

Para ma-instill sa kaniya na dapat continuous pa rin ang pag-aaral niya. Ayaw ko kasing isipin niyang bakasyon lang siya, baka matagal ko na naman siyang mapapayag mag-school (I wanted to instill in him that learning should be continuous. I don’t want him to think it’s just a long vacation. It might take time to convince him to go back to school),” she said.

The 44-year-old mother of two was worried over their internet connection after the school held simulation classes ahead of the opening on Oct. 5. She’s keeping her fingers crossed that Enzo and his kuya (older brother) Edrei, an 18-year-old Grade 12 student, would have opposite class schedules so they won’t use the internet at the same time.

The problems of SPED parents and teachers go beyond weak internet connections, however. Physical interaction with teachers is a cornerstone of SPED, and experts and stakeholders are still debating whether to push face-to-face classes or settle for distance learning. One thing is sure: parents like Elena will have to pull all stops to make everything work, if they don’t want their kids left behind. (See related story: Will distance learning work? Parents, teachers not so sure)

But Elena is not so confident in becoming Enzo’s teacher.

Titingin ako sa books niya ngayon at ipapabasa sa kanya. Kung ano `yung pagkabasa [at] pagkakaintindi namin, `yun na `yun,” she said. “Hindi katulad ng teacher, may sarili silang style, may mga visual aid pa sila, which is hindi talaga magagawa ng parent (I will look at the books and ask him to read them. How we read and understood them, that’s it. Teachers have their own style, they have their own visual aids, which parents don’t),” she said.

Elena converts their dining table into a makeshift study area for Enzo, who begins schooling at Parang Elementary School on Oct. 5. Photograph: Winona Sadia

Exception for SPED learners?

SPED enrollment has always been low. Genevieve Caballa, executive director of the Alternative Learning Resource School Philippines (ALRES-Phils) – a school offering SPED and therapy programs – said that 97 percent of learners with disabilities were not in school. Enrollment has not improved for more than a decade, she said.

Data from the Department of Education (DepEd) showed that of more than 5 million Filipino children with disabilities nationwide, only 1.4 percent or more than 71,000 non-graded learners were enrolled for the upcoming school year as of September.

Former education secretary Bro. Armin Luistro called for face-to-face classes among learners with special education needs, or LSENs, despite the pandemic.

“SPED should continue and it has to be face-to-face. There are only a few students and they need the equipment and special teachers in the schools. Barangay (village) leaders and DepEd should work together on it,” Luistro told the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).

Fernan Gana, president of the Quezon City Federation of Parents and Teachers Associations, said this was easier said than done.

Tama ‘yung rekomendasyon [pero] siguro, pag-aralan lang ‘yung protocols [at] kung paanong iiwasang magkahawaan ‘yung mga bata. Alam naman nating mas vulnerable sila, lalo na `yung mga nasa SPED school (The recommendations are correct but the protocols should be studied to prevent kids from infecting one another. Those who are in SPED school are more vulnerable),” he said.

But for Reading Association of the Philippines President Frederick Perez, SPED institutions might have to consider halting classes altogether.

“Sorry to the SPED schools but I don’t believe that special education will be meaningful and fruitful at this time. Maybe next year. They (LSENs) need a lot of physical contact,” he said.

‘Face-to-face learning ideal, but safety first’

Caballa would rather stick to distance learning, cautioning against resuming face-to-face classes for LSENs.

“Many of them are immunocompromised, so they are more at risk than neurotypical children. [We] don’t want to endanger learners. They could get easily infected,” she said.

Caballa argued that halting school altogether for SPED learners would mean depriving them of their right to continuous education.

“Children have a critical window for development and learning opportunities. If you miss that, there’s no turning back,” she said.

The SPED expert also warned against “regression,” which she said was common among learners with disabilities.

Neurotypical learners, or children with no intellectual or developmental disorders, were less likely to regress even with long breaks from studies, as they have other options to continue learning, she said.

“For learners with disabilities, if they don’t study or are not given just a little stimulation, they easily regress academically and behaviorally,” Caballa said. “The intervention we’re looking at is really empowering parents. Parents are the key.”

According to DepEd’s Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan, face-to-face instruction for learners with disabilities would be allowed only in “very low-risk areas” such as geographically isolated, disadvantaged, and conflict-affected areas with no history of Covid-19 infection.

However, teachers and learners should be living in the vicinity of the school. Face-to-face classes for LSENs, DepEd said, must undergo risk assessment and adhere to strict health protocols.

Redefining learning

Caballa said the way to help LSENs cope with the new normal in education was for parents and teachers to “redefine learning.”

When SPED classes opened at her school on July 13, teachers saw the need to engage the household in online and offline learning activities.

“It’s not just paper and pencil. It’s integrated in home routines. In cooking, for example, we incorporated functional math and reading, reading a recipe, measurement, procedure,” Caballa said.

SPED teachers must also make it a point to keep the screen time within the “ideal” one to two hours per session, she said.

Some of Enzo’s artworks are displayed on the walls of their house in Marikina. Photograph: Winona Sadia

The new setup means parents play an even bigger role in their children’s studies, Caballa said.

Kung dati, hinahatid lang nila `yung bata [at] pinapasa na sa teacher, [ngayon] they realized [na] mahirap pala `yung ginagawa ng teachers, but at the same time we’re encouraging the parents [at] nakaalalay kami sa kanila (Before, they just dropped the kids at school. Now they realize that what the teachers are doing is not easy. At the same time, we’re encouraging the parents and we’re helping them.),” she said.

“It becomes less teacher-dependent because the teacher is just a facilitator and the parent is the lead teacher, which is how it should be.”

Caballa said she found comfort in how several learners have responded to the distance learning setup.

“For the majority, we found out that they were more resilient than how we had perceived them to be. We thought they won’t be able to adjust,” she said.

Running a private SPED school where parents shoulder the costs still has a lot of challenges, especially on the part of teachers, Caballa admitted. There are two backup teachers per session in case the internet connection falters.

“It’s difficult, but I guess we’re driven by our passion for what we do. We know that we don’t have a choice. The other choice is just to stop,” Caballa said. –PCIJ, September 2020

Winona Sadia finished AB Journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. She works as a TV news producer. You may reach her on Twitter (@winonymous) or at sadiawinona@gmail.com for comments or suggestions.

Paramilitary destroys Lumad school; leader invokes Duterte in attack

A paramilitary group destroyed an indigenous people’s school in Bukidnon Province last Wednesday, August 26, the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network reported.

The Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) Academy in Sitio Laburon, Brgy. Matupe, San Fernando was attacked and destroyed by around 50 members of paramilitary group ‘Bagani’, the network said in an alert Saturday.

The group said two teachers tending to the school farm were alerted by students at around 7:15 in the morning that armed men have trespassed the school campus.

The school—repeatedly accused by government forces as a New People’s Army training facility—is 15-minutes away from the farm.

The teachers saw the paramilitary group destroying the school buildings and tearing up textbooks.  

The destroyed teachers’ quarters. (SOS photo)

“The teachers were about to take photos of the incident but were threatened by the ‘Bagani’ leader Lito Gambay, who told them to leave as President (Rodrigo) Duterte will know about this,” the SOS said.

Students and community members cried out of frustration as their school was being destroyed before their eyes, the SOS added.

The two school buildings and teachers’ cottage was built in 2007 from donations by the European Union Aid for uprooted people.

The main school building after the attack. (SOS photo)

The SOS said the ‘Bagani’ paramilitary is under the command of the 89th Infantry Battalion Bravo Company of the Philippine Army which has set up camp in Brgy. Kalagangan, San Fernando, 30-minutes away from the school.

“The Save Our Schools condemns in strongest terms the unabated destruction and closure of Lumad schools in Mindanao. As of August 2020, around 178 lumad schools are now forcibly closed,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Another view of the destroyed school building after the attack. (SOS photo)

Due to public pressure and clamor, DepEd moves school opening to October 5

By Joseph Cuevas

The Department of Education (DepEd) announced last Friday, August 14, the postponement of school opening originally set on August 24, 2020 to October 5, 2020.

According to DepEd, the memorandum given by the Office of the President to defer school opening to October 5 is pursuant to Republic Act No. 11480.

DepEd will use the deferment to provide relief to the logistical limitations faced by the areas placed under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine and to fill in the remaining gaps of the school opening it is currently addressing.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers ACT said that DepEd’s decision was brought about by “very valid and sound arguments which the agency can no longer deny.”

“We have proven today that the people’s voices can and will triumph, and we shall continue to push the government to fulfill the requisites for a safe, accessible, and quality education,” ACT said in a statement.

The group added that preparedness at the minimum means a 1:1 module set to pupil ratio ready for distribution by August 24, a 1:1 ratio of laptop to teachers, internet subsidy to teachers and learners, health screening and PPEs for teachers, and medical fund for free treatment if they get infected with COVID-19.

ACT said it received complaints from school heads about the late release of funds from the DepEd Central office as well as depleted school funds for module printing.

The central office only released funds and utilization guidelines for module reproduction on the latter half of July, ACT said.

ACT photo

Many school heads said that the P9 billion downloaded funds from the central office have not yet reached the school level resulting in the failure to deliver the needed modules any day earlier than October given the stringent procurement rules and lengthy processes, the group added.

ACT said that DepEd has not given any assistance to teachers specifically responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that they are not asking beyond “hard-won and hard-earned benefits and entitlements of personnel, as well as already apportioned funds even before the health crisis.”

October 5 falls on International Teachers Day.

Better aid, wage subsidy for private school teachers

ACT-Private Schools also called on the government to support displaced private school teachers and personnel nationwide as the House of Representatives is set to finalize the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act (BARO) Part 2.

ACT-Private Schools secretary-general Jonathan Geronimo said that even with a one-time cash assistance of five to eight thousand pesos will not rectify the past six months of state neglect, and will not at all suffice to cover their needs.

Geronimo challenged the Rodrigo Duterte administration to help educators, particularly the “long ignored private education sector nationwide” by granting a decent amount covering the months of COVID-19 lockdowns.

ACT Private Schools demanded the following:

(1) Better and more dignified aid,

(2) wage subsidy to teachers and staff,

(3) zero-interest loans for small to medium-sized private schools to sustain their operations, and

(4) an allocation of funds for the health and safety of private school teachers and personnel. #

Students up in arms over tuition increase plan amid pandemic

By Sanafe Marcelo

Students of a Central Luzon university are protesting plans to increase their tuition and other fees amid the coronavirus pandemic as well as the holding of online classes for the coming semester.

Students of the Holy Angel University (HAU) in Angeles City, Pampanga province launched a Twitter protest which became a trending topic nationwide “hashtag” #HAUyokoNa.

Their campaign reached more 12.3 thousand tweets from 6:00 PM of April 24 12 noon of April 25.

According to sources, the HAU management proposed last January an average of 6% increase on tuition and 22% on miscellaneous fees.

This led the University Student Council (USC) to launch a petition last February 26 against the fee increases.

Aside from the free increases, the students also protested the university’s decision to begin enrollment for the second semester of the current academic year on May 18 and start the academic year on July 15.

The students are also against the proposal by the university management to conduct online classes while the pandemic rages.

According to Anakbayan-HAU, the university’s decision ‘considering the situation we are all in at this moment, the said schedule ignores underprivileged students who may not be able to attend online classes which the school proposes.  

“This will also leave the students with insufficient time to recover from their financial burdens caused by the pandemic,” the group said in a statement.

The students pointed out that many families are hard up during the government-imposed lockdown with the “No Work, No Pay” situation.

“This fee increase is another hindrance towards the goal of making education an accessible right for the youth,” Anakbayan said. #

‘Tulong Guro’ sa panahon ng COVID lockdown

Habang nasa ika-anim na linggo na ang enhanced community quarantine sa buong Luzon dahil sa Covid-19, marami sa mga Filipino ang higit nangangailangan ng tulong.

Ang ACT for People’s Health na pinangungunahan ng mga progresibong guro ay naglunsad ng “Tulong Guro” na ang layunin ay makapagbigay-tulong sa mga frontliner, laluna na sa mga health workers at mahihirap na pamayanan habang lockdown.

Background music: A life in a day Cinematic Folk Ambient Cinematic Sounds [KK No Copyright Music] / Bidyo nina Jola Diones-Mamangun, Arrem Alcaraz at Joseph Cuevas

Pahayag ng Alliance of Concerned Teachers hinggil sa tangkang pagpatay sa guro sa Bukidnon

Nagbigay pahayag si Joselyn Martinez, tagapangulo ng ACT Philippines, kaugnay sa tangkang pagpaslang sa kasapi ng ACT Region 10 na si teacher Zhaydee Cabañelez noong Oktubre 15 sa Valencia City Bukidnon.

Injustices breed activism, teachers tell Bato and Albayalde

The Filipino people’s intensifying poverty and other social injustices drive students to activism, a teachers group said in response to accusations they encourage their students to join rallies.

Replying to accusations by Senator Bato dela Rosa and police chief Oscar Albayalde that teachers encourage “anti-government” sentiments among students and the youth, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said it is not the teachers’ fault but poverty, corruption and human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The two officials separately blamed the teachers following a Senate hearing where dela Rosa presented parents who complained that their children have left home and joined activist organizations.

Dela Rosa and Albayalde said teachers should “just do their jobs and not make students turn against the government.”

Dela Rosa went as far as ask that teachers who encourage students to join rallies must be fired.

“They should be removed. Parents enter [sic] their students there [in schools] to become professionals, not to fight the government,” Dela Rosa said.

Albalyalde, for his part accused the teachers of brainwashing their students.

“What they should stop [doing] is brainwash[ing] the students. You are a teacher, you act like a teacher,” Albayalde said.

Their statement did not sit well with the teachers.

What the teachers are doing

 “The two officials are not in the position to lecture us on our jobs. Their stances show that they have very little appreciation of the objectives of education,” ACT national chairperson Joselyn Martinez retorted in a statement Friday, August 16.

Martinez  said teachers are teaching their students patriotism, love of humanity, human rights, heroism, history, rights and duties of citizens, ethical and spiritual values, moral character and personal discipline, critical and creative thinking, scientific and technological knowledge and vocational efficiency as mandated by the Philippine Constitution.

“It is not the teachers’ fault if the government leadership acts in contrast to the values upheld by education. They should not blame us if the youth calls out the government for the ills that they see in society. We are only doing our job,” she explained.

Martinez said that the government should not find fault in teachers encouraging students to attend rallies as these are “real-life events that hold many learnings for the students.”

“It exposes our students to people from different walks of life who have grievances that are worth hearing. It helps broaden the youth’s view of our society and offers education that cannot be learned inside the classroom and from textbooks,” Martinez said.

It is the two officials who should show respect instead of preventing the youth from exercising their rights, the teacher said.

Part of democracy

Martinez hit dela Rosa and Albayalde for “demonizing activism and rallies which are basic constitutional rights of the people, including students and teachers.”

“In the guise of attempting to curb armed rebellion, dela Rosa and Albayalde are in effect discrediting the fundamental rights of the people to free expression, self-organization and to protest. It is them who are not doing their jobs as being government officials, their constitutional duty is to respect and uphold such rights,” Martinez said.

“Rallying is not a crime. It appears that dela Rosa’s and Albayalde’s rants all boil down to this administration’s intolerance of dissent. They should stop in their desperate bid to silence critics. We’re in a democracy after all,” Martinez said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)