Press release from the National Union of Students of the Philippines:

The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) today challenged the national government, Department of Education (DepEd), and Commission on Higher education (CHED) to seriously act upon the demand of the Filipino people for immediate medical actions needed to combat COVID-19, including mass testing and contact tracing.

NUSP said that the Duterte administration must not entirely depend on the creation of a vaccine which is bound to take a longer time.

“It must be noted that Duterte, in his attempt to escape accountability, zeroes in on the lack of a vaccine for COVID-19 to justify the problems we face. In reality, the government could have done more to prevent the severity of the pandemic,” said NUSP National President Raoul Manuel.

“No one can blame students, parents, teachers, and staff if they are afraid to be physically present on school campuses. These fears are the product of poor medical actions by the national government to fight COVID-19. Top officials even continue to deny the need for mass testing until now,” he added.

‘Dilemma’ faced by the educational system

For NUSP, focusing on the main problem — how to address the pandemic itself — must precede discussions of government officials as to the date of opening and mode of learning for Academic Year 2020-2021.

NUSP cited that some lawmakers object to opening the school year soon, whether through on-campus classes or online learning. For the National Union, this implies that the national government has failed to lead the fight against COVID-19, forcing the sectors in the educational system to make difficult choices as to how learning can proceed amid the pandemic.

Meanwhile, NUSP asserts that “flexible learning,” the proposed alternative to on-campus classes, is anti-poor and too burdensome for Filipino families in this time of crisis.

“This dilemma in the educational system underscores the need for long-overdue medical solutions that will guarantee the safe resumption of on-campus classes,” he stressed.

“In the greater scheme of things, the problems we face should physical classes resume, like school congestion, are not new. These reveal how the education sector has been greatly neglected by the government for the longest time,” Manuel added.

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