ILOILO CITY – Last July 22, the Back to School Network submitted a petition calling for the safe resumption of face-to-face classes and P10,000 student aid to the offices of CHED and DepEd as well as to the office of Iloilo City Lone District Representative Jam Jam Baronda.
Back to School Network is an alliance of students, student organizations and formations, student publications, and student councils from all over the island of Panay.
According to the group, it has been more than a year since face-to-face classes were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, CHED has failed to provide a comprehensive plan for the safe reopening of schools, the group added. This has proven to become quite a burden for students who are struggling to cope with the flexible learning setup. In addition, parents also struggle with the high financial demands that come with the remote setup which includes gadgets, internet, and the like, and is made even more challenging as many citizens have lost their jobs during the pandemic.
According to a study by UNICEF, the reopening of schools and resumption of face-to-face classes are essential to prevent the increase of mental health problems amongst the youth, teenage pregnancy, sexual exploitation, child marriage, violence, etc. This is also vital to ensure that school-based services are continuously received by the youth such as immunization, school feeding, and mental health support.
The group also conducted several house to house campaigns in communities in Iloilo City where they were able to hear the sentiments first-hand from students, teachers, and parents who are struggling with the flexible learning setup. From there, they were able to organize the alliance to strengthen their campaign for safe resumption of face-to-face classes and student aid during the pandemic.
Last July 16, one of the group’s demands was for CHED Region 6 to conduct a consultation with said group for the agency to hear out their calls for safe school opening and student aid.
However, the group only received a letter response from the agency emphasizing CHED-DOH Memo Circular No. 2021-001 that states that the government has allowed limited face-to-face classes for priority courses such as health-related degree programs and that they are continuously studying how to implement this for other degree programs.
The group sees this as CHED’s denial of their demands and is a clear manifestation of their insincerity to hear out and genuinely uphold the youth and students’ demands. The group continues in their efforts through another round of signature campaigns until their demands are met./PT