Business, education groups support August school reopening

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The government is targeting to open schools on Aug. 24. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

SEVERAL business and education groups are urging the government to reopen schools on Aug. 24 as recommended by the Department of Education (DepEd).

“The sooner we bring back the Filipino youth to school, the sooner we can start rebuilding for a stronger Philippines, post-pandemic,” the statement, signed by the Philippine Business for Education, Makati Business Club, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Philippine Normal University, Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, Action for Economic Reforms, and the Knowledge Channel Foundation, read.

The education and business groups said schools offer social protection, nutrition, health, and emotional support. They said that education is essential as the country rebuilds the post-pandemic economy.

The Department of Education has said classes are set to reopen in August, either face-to-face or virtually. President Rodrigo R. Duterte approved a proposal to allow limited face-to-face classes in low-risk areas.

The groups said that public health risks can be managed with planning and resources. They backed the use of face-to-face interactions with safety measures in low-risk areas, especially in poor communities with a low number of COVID-19 cases, an information technology infrastructure gap, and low learning outcomes.

They are asking local governments to help reopen schools safely.

“The earlier most schools can reopen the better; the less risk of long-term damage to the learning journeys and well-being of millions of Filipino children,” the groups said.

Schools located in low-risk areas must send requests to DepEd for limited face-to-face classes.

A teachers’ group in May said that opening schools before the spread of the virus has been contained could prove risky for educators and students.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in May said that decision-makers considering opening or closing schools due to the pandemic should consider the current understanding of COVID-19 and its transmission and severity in children, the local situation of the virus at the school location, and the school’s ability to maintain COVID-19 prevention.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on July 17 signed Republic Act No. 11480, which would allow him to open schools later than August if there is a state of emergency or calamity. — Jenina P. Ibañez