First day of classes went well despite challenges, DepEd says

By CNN Philippines Staff

The Education Department on Tuesday acknowledged that technical challenges hounded the opening of basic education classes, but maintained the first day of school generally went well.

“In a big picture, it went very well yesterday,” Education Undersecretary and Spokesperson Annalyn Sevilla told CNN Philippines’ The Source.“There are problems of course, we have a command center, we have some calls… Overall, we can say it went well.”

Education Secretary Leonor Briones backed the sentiment, touting the school opening as a “success” despite the hurdles.

“On the whole, maraming challenges, marami din efforts na titigilan ang pag-umpisa ng klase, pero sa tulong ng buong bayan, sa tulong ng pamahalaan, ng civil society… napagpatuloy natin ito,” Briones said in a briefing in Malacañang later in the day.

[Translation: On the whole, there are a lot of challenges, even efforts to stop school opening. But with the help of the nation, the government, the civil society… we were able to push through with this.]

The agency officially opened the new academic year on Monday, with over 22 million students from around 47,000 public schools going back to class amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sevilla recognized the challenges for teachers and students — including poor internet connectivity and lack of gadgets for online learning— but stressed the government is working to resolve these problems.

She noted that majority or about 85 percent of the enrolled learners chose the modular approach, wherein printed modules will be used for alternative learning.

“We do acknowledge that it (internet) is a problem, but for education, we have to continue. There’s something that we can do, and that is the modular approach,” the Education spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Briones also revealed the department has received around 96 inquiries or concerns on the first day of school through its command center.

‘Opposite of victory’

A teachers’ group meanwhile countered DepEd’s latest pronouncements, labeling the controversial “victory against COVID-19” claim as an “outright denial” of problems on the ground.

“The mere opening of classes is not by itself a victory against COVID-19 and its disruptive impacts on the people’s lives, especially not a claim the government can make. It was teachers’ hard work and sacrifices that enabled us to open schools, costing us personal resources and to the detriment of our own well-being,” the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said in its statement.

ACT reported that some teachers were relegated to performing non-teaching tasks on the first day, as parties had to adjust to the new academic set-up. Online class meetings were also hampered by weak signal and low internet data credit.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered a six-week-long postponement of the school opening, as the government sought to iron out the logistical limitations for the conduct of the blended and distance learning classes.

Under the law, the school year should start not later than the last day of August, but a measure signed by Duterte in July allowed him to set a different start date when there’s a state of emergency or calamity.

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