‘Probe school closures over Covid’
BY JAVIER JOE ISMAEL
The Manila Times
WEEKS before the new school year starts, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian is seeking an inquiry into the impact of school closures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, including recovery mechanisms for the basic education sector. In filing Senate Resolution 11, one of Gatchalian’s priority measures under the 19th Congress, the lawmaker seeks to identify and address gaps in the Department of Education’s (DepEd) programs for learning continuity. He noted that while the DepEd sought to address the pandemic’s impact, the basic education sector faced numerous problems including massive learning and long-term economic losses that further exacerbate the already poor performance of the country’s learners since the pre-pandemic period. According to a joint report by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and World Bank, learning poverty in the Philippines before the Covid-19 pandemic was at 90.5 percent. Learning poverty is the share of children aged 10 who cannot read or understand a simple story. According to the joint report, learning poverty in countries like the Philippines could increase by as much as 10 percentage points because of school closures. The National Economic and Development Authority estimates that a year of school closures is equivalent to P10.7 trillion in long-term productivity and income losses over the next 40 years. Gatchalian said continuous disruptions by the Covid-19 pandemic will result in severe consequences such as learners’ loss of basic numeracy and literacy skills, deteriorating mental health, lack of access to a regular source of nutrition and vulnerability to abuse. According to the Unesco Institute of Statistics’ Global Monitoring Dashboard, full school closures were implemented for 75 weeks in the Philippines. “Upang matiyak natin ang pagbangon ng sektor ng edukasyon, nais nating suriin at maunawaan ang pinsalang dulot ng pandemya ng Covid-19. Kasunod nito ang pagpapatupad natin ng mga hakbang upang hindi mapag-iwanan ang ating mga mag-aaral (For us to ensure the recovery of the education sector, we need to examine and understand the damages brought by the Covid-19 pandemic before we implement the measures ensuring that our learners will not be left behind),” Gatchalian said. School year 2022-2023 is set to start on August 22, while schools have until October 31 to slowly transition to five days of in-person learning. Starting November 2, all public and private schools should have transitioned to five days of faceto-face classes.