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No classes still in devastated areas

Distance-learning activities in Calabarzon and Cagayan province have been suspended from Monday to Friday this week by the Department of Education following the onslaught of Typhoon "Ulysses" (international name: Vamco).

Wilfredo Cabral, director of the DepEd’s office in Calabarzon region, announced the suspension of these activities in the following areas of Rizal: Rodriguez; San Mateo; Cainta; Taytay; Baras – Pinugay; Upland of Tanay.

“This (suspension) is to provide affected personnel, families, and the learners [time] to recover from the devastating effects of the typhoon,” Cabral said in a memorandum.

In the National Capital Region, distance-learning activities are suspended only in areas where the local government units (LGUs) declare a suspension of classes, according to an advisory from DepEd regional director Malcom Garma.

On Monday, Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro announced a month-long suspension in classes in all levels.

Private schools can exercise their discretion to suspend classes if the LGU did not declare a class suspension, Garma said.

Marikina was among the worst-hit cities during the onslaught of Ulysses last week, with hundreds of residents climbing on roofs, asking to be rescued, as flood waters rose quickly, leaving houses and cars submerged in murky water.

In a separate memorandum, Cabral also suspended distance-learning activities in several schools in Antipolo City from Nov. 16 to 20 because of the effects of Typhoon Ulysses, such as “impassable roads due the damaged bridges, power outage, and the dangers of landslides.”

The schools include: Calawis Elementary School; Kaysakat Elementary School; San Joseph Elementary School; Canumay Elementary School; Libis Elementary School; San Yisor Elementary School; Apia Elementary School; Paglitaw Elementary School; Calawis National High School; Kaysakat National High School; Canumay National High School;.

June Arvin Gudoy, director of the DepEd’s public affairs service, said distance-learning classes in Cagayan province were also suspended until Tuesday, Nov. 17.

“Distance learning classes are suspended today until tomorrow in synch with the proclamation of [Governor Manuel] Mamba declaring [November] 16 [to] 17 as clean up days in all [government] offices in the province,” he told reporters.

Large parts of the Cagayan Valley region were submerged in deep floods over the weekend, which local officials blamed on water coming from surrounding areas and water from the opened Magat Dam in the aftermath of Ulysses.

At the same time, DepEd said it would fund the replacement of self-learning modules damaged after typhoons battered large parts of Luzon in recent weeks.

Education Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said the DepEd was collating reports on damaged learning resources and has identified funding sources for the replacement of these materials.

“We are ready to download [or] supplement the financial resources of DepEd Regions and Schools Division Offices affected by recent calamities,” Sevilla told reporters in a Viber message.

At least 67 people have died from the onslaught of Ulysses, which comes more than a week after Rolly, the world’s strongest storm this year, ravaged the country. 

Meanwhile, at least 134 faculty members of the University of the Philippines-Diliman have called on the school’s administration to “immediately” end the semester, citing challenges in distance learning coupled with the effects of typhoons that recently hit the country.

In a statement issued late Sunday, the faculty members said the recent storms that battered Luzon exacerbated the difficulties faced by UP students and educators with the implementation of distance learning during the pandemic.

“The struggles of the learners are further intensified by the recent calamities, leaving students and faculty from Bicol, Cagayan, Isabela, Marikina, and Rizal, among others, with an indefinite and debilitating loss of electricity and internet connection, destruction of properties and homes, and loss of loved ones,” the faculty members said.

“With only three weeks left to finish the semester, discounting the time needed to recover by those affected by the recent typhoons, the pressure to finish the remaining days of the semester has exacerbated to the point of inhumanity,” the group added.

In calling for an end to the semester, the faculty members also urged the UP administration to halt any additional requirements and implement a “pass or DRP system” instead of a numeric grading system.

Under the system, students enrolled in the first semester will receive a “P” or passing grade by default, except for those who were unable to submit sufficient requirements or attend synchronous classes, according to the statement.

Students requesting for numerical grades, such as those with scholarships, may be given optional requirements upon the discretion of their instructors, the group said.

The group called on the administration to fast-track cash aid, such as internet and gadget allowances, for teachers and salaries of new faculty.

The faculty members also asked for an increase of gadget allowance of Php6,000 in the next semesters and provision for calamity aid,” among others.

Among the signatories is former Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, who teaches at UP’s College of Social Work and Community Development.

Elena Pernia, UP vice president of public affairs, said the administration was thankful for the inputs of the faculty members and would discuss the concerns.

In the House of Representatives, a female legislator appealed to DepEd to temporarily postpone classes in areas devastated by typhoons Rolly and Ulysses.

Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo said “distance learning amid COVID-19 is no longer a case of sufficient internet access."

"Students have no electricity, no access to water and other basic resources - all while having to deal with the threats of this pandemic,” Castelo, vice chairperson of the House committee on Metro Manila development, said.

“The least we can do to help those in typhoon-ravaged communities in these trying times is give students and teachers and their families a respite from academic work,” she said.

Castelo noted that typhoons Rolly and Ulysses had left tens of thousands displaced and road and communications infrastructure damaged.

She said many of those dislocated are housed temporarily in school buildings, while telecommunications companies are trying to restore service.

“Until such service is restored and there is strong, sustainable connectivity, distance learning is not possible,” she said.

Castelo suggested that the DepEd give its regional, provincial, city, and municipal officials the discretion to determine areas in Bicol, Cagayan Valley and Metro Manila where online learning could be postponed and for how long.

“It is only humane to allow students to recover physically and mentally in the next few weeks. Grades should not add the burden the academic community has to face in difficult times,” she stressed.

She said she was sure education officials “will not postpone classes for the sake of postponing, because sooner or later, they will have to recoup lost time by extending their school calendar or holding makeup learning session.”

She said in areas not affected by the recent typhoons, teachers should continue conducting online classes.

During the proposed postponement, she said education and local officials could clean school houses submerged by flooding, while telcos are repairing their infrastructure.

Local officials could also relocate evacuees housed schools in case teachers need to use their classrooms, she added.

Meanwhile, party-list Kabataan has urged education agencies to ease the workload of students and declare an “academic break” after the series of typhoons ravaged parts of the country in the past weeks on top of the continued coronavirus pandemic.

In a series of Twitter posts, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago said easing academic load would help students, faculty members and school personnel affected by storms that recently battered the country, such as Rolly and Ulysses.

“Easing of academic load is necessary to help students and members of faculty and education support personnel affected by the typhoons,” Elago said, as she addressed DepEd and the Commission on Higher Education.

Elago also called on both agencies to declare an “academic break” to assess the situation in the education sector, and review faculty and student workload.

In easing workload and declaring a break, schools should also move deadlines for requirements, Elago said.

De La Salle University also announced an “easing of academic workload” from Nov. 16 to 21 to help students and faculty members cope from the effects of Typhoon Ulysses, according to The LaSallian.

This means deadline for the submission of coursework in La Salle will resume from November 23 onward, among other measures, the LaSallian said.

The University of Santo Tomas, likewise, suspended synchronous and asynchronous classes from November 16 to 21.

The Polytechnic University of the Philippines, meanwhile, will be implementing an academic freeze across its campuses in the country from November 16 to 27.

Due to this development, PUP also said it would be extending the first semester of AY 2020-2021 and will be posting the revised calendar as soon as possible.

The CHED earlier called for the suspension of classes in higher education institutions in regions that are still recovering from the impact of Typhoon Ulysses, which inundated large parts of Luzon.

In the past months, many students and teachers had complained of feeling stressed, exhausted and anxious because of excessive workload under distance learning.

In the Senate, Sen. Francisco Pangilinan said the administration should not belittle the voice of the youth and listen to their views about the problems besetting the Filipino people following the calamities.

Pangilinan said, "Instead of shutting them out and threatening them, we should be open to their grievances and solutions.

“If I may suggest, the youth may also support the call of some lawmakers, including myself, to realign the anti-insurgency fund to addressing the simultaneous and successive disasters we’ve been experiencing."

Topics: distance-learning , Typhoon "Ulysses" , Department of Education , academic freeze
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