“Ensure the right to safe, accessible, and quality education for all amid pandemic” -Youth Party

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Kabataan Partylist reiterates its call addressed to the government to ensure the right to safe, accessible and quality education amid pandemic. We reiterate our call after Pres. Duterte’s 5th SONA statement that we should wait for the vaccine first before we can go back to face to face classes again and after recording a grossly high unenrolment rate–1 out of 4 Filipino students or 25%–due to government’s incompetent pandemic response.

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Now more than ever, the government must ensure that the right of every child, youth and student to education should be given even amid the pandemic.

According to Department of Education enrollment data for the coming school year, only 20 million students enrolled in both public and private schools, as compared to 27 million enrollees from the previous academic year. Meaning, 7 million students were not able to enroll for this coming school year. Worst is that according to DepEd they already expected the lower enrollment rate for this upcoming academic year as a result of the effects of COVID-19 in the country. But if this is the case, we ask the Department of Education: if the administration has already anticipated the lower enrollment rate, then what measures have been implemented to address it and ensure that all the Filipino youth will have access to safe, accessible and quality education?

Prior to the pandemic, the people have been facing various socio-economic problems, from joblessness to an increase in prices and taxes, low wages, and attacks to people’s rights. With the pandemic, these concerns have only intensified. More people lost their jobs, people are hungry, delayed livelihood aid coming from the goverment and with no access to basic health services.

With the new school year coming and with the absence of a concrete plan for safe reopening of schools, both students, parents, faculty members, and school personnel are left at the mercy of whatever this Administration would throw them into. DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones’ recent statements stating that classes would resume this August 24, “whatever form it is,” reeks of grave insensitivity on the parts of parents struggling to make ends meet and the student’s right to education. And with the 7 million students who opted not to enroll for this academic year, they have been deprived of their inviolable right to education. Instead of this Administration providing means for these students to continue to further their studies, this government gives them nothing and ultimately betrays their trust as supposed protector of the rights of the people to education.

The Duterte administration should have a comprehensive health-based and pro-people measure to defeat COVID-19. Free and systematic mass testing, comprehensive contact-tracing, as well as continued delivery of aid, this Administration could have provided the everyday needs of the people and help them get through and survive this pandemic. However, the Duterte Administration implemented militarist lockdown and continue to attack the people’s rights by prioritizing the passage of terror law, the closure of ABS-CBN and other anti-people and anti-poor policies which only exacerbated the already hard lives of the Filipino people.

The proposed education adjustment programs by this administration have only been anti-poor and anti-student. Online classes are anti-poor as not everyone–students and teachers, have access to internet, laptops and android phones. And the government cannot even commit to provide the necessary materials for online learning both for the teachers and students. Distance learning via modular means, gives double burden to parents and students as they are left to ensure the continuity of quality learning processes on their own.

With or without pandemic, the government must prioritize and ensure the right to education of every Filipino youth. We call on the students, teachers, administrators and parents to be united in asserting the youth’s right to education and intensify our call for a comprehensive, health-based and pro-people pandemic response.###

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