Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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While learners affected by recent storms await the printing and distribution of new sets of learning materials, Senator Win Gatchalian proposed anew to resume classes through “purok workshops” if they are in COVID-19-free or ‘low-risk’ areas.

According to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, it is crucial that recovery efforts work towards the resumption of classes as it gives learners a sense of normalcy after disasters. During his rounds in Bicol and Cagayan Valley, two of the regions hit hardest by a string of typhoons, Gatchalian pitched again his proposal for schools or teachers to conduct classes through ‘purok workshops.’ He clarified that his proposal is for teachers to go to the purok or small communities to conduct small class sessions.

As of November 22, there were 429 cases of COVID-19 throughout the Bicol region while Cagayan Valley posted 524 cases. The map of the University of the Philippines’ COVID-19 tracker also reveals that there were 496 municipalities nationwide with zero active cases of the virus as of November 22.

Gatchalian explained that these purok workshops can gather a group of ten students or less in barangay zones, where they can receive guidance from teachers or from the learning support aides of the Department of Education (DepEd). The idea of these purok workshops is patterned after the ‘learning pods’ that became popular in the United States, where small groups of children gather to receive instruction from teachers.

To avoid COVID-19 outbreaks in these gatherings, Gatchalian added that these purok workshops should strictly observe health protocols such as the wearing of face masks, physical distancing, and ensuring the availability of alcohol and sanitizers.

“Isa sa mga mungkahi natin ay payagan na yung mga lugar na walang COVID-19 o iyong mga maituturing na low-risk areas na magkaroon ng face-to-face classes sa pamamagitan ng purok workshops. Dahil nasira ng bagyo ang mga modules na ginagamit ng karamihan sa ating mga mag-aaral, ang pagkakaroon ng direktang ugnayan sa pagitan nila at kanilang mga guro ang isang paraan upang makabalik na agad sa pag-aaral ang mga bata,” said Gatchalian.

The Department of Education (DepEd) has vowed to replace the damaged self- learning modules (SLMs.) In a statement, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones reported that additional funding will be released for the reproduction or replacement of damaged SLMs, the distribution of hygiene kits, the conduct of clean-drive, and the provision of psychosocial first aid.

Meanwhile, Gatchalian said that the duration of “academic breaks” for rehabilitation and recovery should be determined by local government units based on the impact of the storms in their areas, noting that prolonged interruption to education would result in learning losses.

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