President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to schools Thursday night to offer installment payment options for students, recognizing how their parents are hard-pressed in finances due to the community quarantine brought about by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In a televised meeting with Cabinet officials, Duterte also ordered the state-run Land Bank of the Philippines (Land Bank) to provide loans to students, especially those who could not afford to pay their tuition at all.
Duterte assured parents who may have lost their jobs due to the pandemic that their children would still be able to pay their tuition with loans offered by the Land Bank.
“We are hard-pressed in our finances but we have to place the premium of education. This would be another round of expenses but Land Bank is there to help you,” he said.
To ensure that the Land Bank would comply with his order, he asked the state-owned bank to prepare a daily report on the loans released to beneficiaries.
Earlier, the Land Bank announced that it launched Academe, a lending program to extend credit to private high schools, private technical-vocational education training institutions, colleges and universities in a “study now, pay later” scheme.
“Given the financial constraints brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, Land Bank is financing interventions to ensure that students will be able to enroll in school when classes finally resume,” Land Bank president and CEO Cecilia Borromeo said in a statement.
The loans carry an interest rate of 3 percent per annum and are payable “based on the maturity of the sub-promissory notes but not to exceed three years.”
Land Bank set aside P3 billion for the lending program, which will be available until June 30, 2021.
With the opening of classes all set for Aug. 24, Duterte commended Education Secretary Leonor Briones for the plan to provide “blended and distance learning” modalities for students to comply with his desire not to allow face-to-face classes until a vaccine against COVID-19 is available.
“I’m impressed with the simplicity of the program, Ma’am. And I believe that all that you have said is really feasible. I believe we have a very workable program and I support you,” he said.
Briones, during the meeting, presented the plan of the Department of Education (DepEd) to adopt different learning approaches to ensure that education continues amid the pandemic.
Briones said the DepEd will have three approaches for students depending on whether they have ready access to computers or the internet.
The first approach, she said, would be printed material, which will be delivered to the homes of the students through the barangays or picked up by their parents at designated places within coordinated schedules.
In case there is no connectivity and printed materials may not be available immediately, Briones said the DepEd could tap radio or television-based learning by “working very closely” with barangays (villages) and local government.
Briones said that municipalities as well as the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), IBC-13 have offered their resources to air lessons through radio and television.
Students with access to interactive facilities will use its online learning platform called DepEd Commons (commons.deped.gov.ph), she said.
Currently, the DepEd Commons has over 7 million subscribers wherein lessons, homework, quizzes, tips to learners, and teachers are accessible, she added.
She said these alternative learning schemes are already existing and done by many schools, but noted that there is a greater emphasis now that face-to-face classes would have to be limited.
Duterte expressed support for the program and asked her to seek help from concerned agencies, particularly the Department of the Interior and Local Government, to assist them in implementing it.
He also vowed to provide funding for the DedEd program, saying that education cannot be compromised.
But the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines on Friday launched its Bantay Balik-Trabaho Hotline to monitor and expose the grave perils to the lives of teachers and education employees who will report to work on June 1, “without so much as mass testing.”
In a statement, the group said education workers are “off to be fed to the wolves” come Monday and will have “no one to turn to but themselves,” citing the lack of clear government plans to ensure their health and safety before returning to work.
“Yesterday’s press briefings were embarrassing displays of the government’s out-of-touchness with realities on the ground, if not their total indifference. This imperils education workers who will be compelled officially or by circumstance to physically report to work on Monday despite the persisting threat of COVID-19 and the failure of the government to conduct mass testing like we insisted. This hotline aims to provide a venue for teachers’ back-to-work woes, and hold the government accountable for neglect,” said ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio.
Earlier, Briones announced that not a “single one of the 900,000 teachers” will be required to physically report to schools on June 1.
Basilio, however, said that this was “pure hogwash” as ground reports from teachers reveal that division and school-level officials have been obliging them to do otherwise, lest they face the threat of being marked absent and left out of the month’s payroll or bonuses.
“We’ve received reports from teachers in areas in Bulacan, Baguio City, Oriental Mindoro, Quezon, and Cavite who received orders to be at their respective schools on Monday,” Basilio said.
Also on Friday, the Quezon City government said it is now preparing for a blended system of learning for basic education to ensure the safety of students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Joy Belmonte said they are looking at various means to ensure that the learning process would not be interrupted while keeping Kinder to Grade 12 students safe from the dreaded virus.
The city’s localized learning continuity plan are anchored on a survey conducted by the city’s Schools Division Office among 65,283 students from various academic levels.
Data revealed that 48,769 or 74.6 percent of those surveyed prefer face-to-face classes, while the remaining 25.4 percent prefer a blended system of learning of either online or modular. Many of the students also indicated in the survey that they had limited access to electronic devices and internet connection.
Based on the survey, the city government would be using a combination of various alternative learning options for the approaching school year, which is scheduled to start on Aug. 24 as announced by the Department of Education, Belmonte said.
She said the city government plans to use the modular system for kinder to grade 6 where printed learning modules would be provided to the students and distributed to them through identified learning hubs, while electronic devices preloaded with modules will be provided for higher levels reducing the need for internet, as this is a common concern among teachers, parents and the students.