By Catherine SValente /Manila Times
President Rodrigo Duterte has asked schools to stagger the payment of tuition fees to ease the burden of parents trying to cope with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
He made the appeal after endorsing the “blended” or flexible learning methods proposed by the Department of Education (DepEd) in lieu of face-to-face classes to protect learners and teachers from the Covid-19 threat.
“As for tuition — I hope that you’d allow a staggered payment or instalments in schools,” Duterte said in a televised public address.
The president also ordered the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) to provide loans to students, especially those who could not afford to pay their tuition.
He said the government might be “hard-pressed” in its finances, but it remains committed to put a premium on education.
The LandBank has set aside P3bn to lend to students until June 30. Duterte also backed the proposal of Education Secretary Leonor Briones for a blended learning plan that includes online classes and distance learning.
He assured Briones of funding for the programme.
Briones said the Education department would have three approaches for students, depending on whether they had ready access to computers or the Internet.
For students with no Internet connection, printed materials will be delivered to their homes through their village administrations or picked up by their parents at designated places. The second is the online learning platform called DepEd Commons, with over 7mn subscribers, wherein lessons, homework, quizzes and tips to learners and teachers are accessible even to parents.
The third was radio or TV-based learning, Briones said.
On Friday, a federation of teachers expressed support to deferring the school opening beyond August.
The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) said the statement of some local executives to further delay the school opening was a “huge development.”
“We still believe that a little delay would help us fix the system and prepare everyone for better condition for schooling,” TDC National chairman Benjo Basas told Manila Times in a text message.
At a Senate hearing, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur Mayor Chavit Singson, president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, said reopening classes in August required careful study.
League of Provinces of the Philippines and Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr said the scheduled resumption of classes could be risky.
“There is a proposal to start the classes on August 24. In my view, this is too early even if more areas have been placed under GCQ or some provinces have little to no Covid-19 cases. As OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) return, as well as the locally stranded individuals, the risk is of infection is high,” he added.
The DepEd has scheduled the opening of the school year on August 24, but maintained that there would be no face-to-face classes.
The department also set the remote enrolment for public schools from June 1 to June 30.
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