Child rights group backs gradual return of face-to-face classes

Child Rights Network on Thursday said the Philippines should gradually reopen its schools amid the coronavirus pandemic as blended learning takes a toll on the future of children.

This as it urged President Rodrigo Duterte to approve the Department of Education’s (DepEd) pilot testing of gradually reopening schools in low-risk areas as long as COVID-19 safety protocols will be followed.

“School closures should always be the last resort during the pandemic, as its dire ramifications will continue to haunt our nation for generations to come,” the rights group said in its statement.

“If we don’t reopen schools with a phased approach now, the most vulnerable children will be in danger of never walking back through the school gates, gambling their futures to uncertainty and even depriving them of the nurturing educational environment they need in their formative years,” it added.

DepEd is already preparing the conduct of face-to-face classes but it is still awaiting the approval of the President.

But for the child rights group, prolonging school closures will be detrimental to students’ physical and mental health because of “reduced physical activity, poor eating habits, and sleep disturbance.”

To help the country in enforcing physical classes amid pandemic, CRN also advised Duterte to look into school reopening measures in other nations.

“The government can learn from the experience of countries like Sweden and Denmark, where physical classes were initially only allowed for students in lower grade levels, as they are less vulnerable to contracting the COVID-19 virus,” said CRN.

In Lao PDR, the provision of WASH facilities also facilitated the safe reopening of classes. Localized ‘cluster outbreaks’ were reported and effectively contained through rapid school re-closures in South Korea, the group added.

Specifically, CRN advised the following measures during the conduct of pilot face-to-face classes in low-risk areas:

Starting the pilot testing in schools located in minimal and low-risk areas and adequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) conditions Starting the pilot testing with pre-school and primary grades as they are less likely to be infected or pass on the infection to others (World Health Organization-UNICEF, 2021) Implementing the pilot testing voluntarily, upon thorough consultations with concerned local government units and parent-teacher associations, with the option for parents to continue distance learning modalities for their children Implementing minimum public health measures prescribed by the authorities (e.g., mask, handwashing, physical distancing, adequate ventilation) and the PDITR (Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Reintegrate) strategy Setting criteria and mandatory procedures for temporary school closure in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak

UNICEF, one of the largest child rights organization globally, had flagged the Philippines for its continued closure of schools which is affecting over 27 million students.

As of August, Philippines is also among the five remaining countries in the world that has yet to reopen face-to-face classes during the global health crisis.–LDF, GMA News

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