Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday said the government should exhaust all means to make sure that students will be able to continue their education amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian

Gatchalian made the call following President Duterte’s decision to recall the Department of Education’s (DepEd) proposal to conduct face-to-face classes due to the new coronavirus strain which is believed to be more infectious.

The senator said the government should be able to utilize all available means and resources to ensure students’ learning won’t regress.

“After battling with the coronavirus for almost a year, there are a lot of things that we still don’t know. For one, this virus can mutate into a new variant,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

“This unknown has led our President to cancel the planned localize limited face-to-face classes and I completely understand his reason for this sudden cancellation,” said the senator, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture.

The lawmaker said he believes the year 2021 would be a very challenging year for the education sector.

“(The year) 2021 will be a very challenging year for both our learners and our teachers in light of the absence of face-to-face classes,” he said.

“The government has to use every arsenal it has to make sure that our learners will not regress, or worse, dropout of school completely,” Gatchalian said.

He said Congress has equipped the DepEd with COVID-mitigating items in the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 which they can use to lessen the challenges in online and modular learning.

“They should implement those items as soon as possible,” he said.

In a meeting with Cabinet officials and infectious disease experts, President Duterte said he will not allow face-to-face classes for children until the Philippines has overcome the COVID-19.

The pilot implementation of the limited face-to-face classes for children was supposed to be conducted in areas considered low-risk for COVID-19 infection from Jan. 11 to Jan. 23 to supplement the DepEd’s distance learning modality.

However, Duterte said he deems it necessary to recall the order after a new coronavirus strain was first detected in the United Kingdom (UK). The Philippines has also suspended flights from the UK starting Dec. 24 to Dec. 31.

Several countries, including Canada, Italy, Turkey, Switzerland, and Germany reportedly imposed a travel ban to prevent the entry of the new strain, which has reportedly also entered Singapore.

Source: Manila Bulletin (