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Why Kabataan Partylist’s Sarah Elago defends the #LeaveNoStudentBehind movement

With the hashtags #EndSemNow and #MassPromotionNow, Kabataan Partylist stands with the students amid the pandemic. On May 6, party-list representative Sarah Elago filed for the House Resolution 831, which calls for “fair and equitable pandemic response and recovery plan in education. They propose to “end [the] current academic term [and] pass all students,” in able to “promote health literacy,” as well as to “provide emergency relief fund amid COVID-19 public health crisis.”

“Inclusive education in the time of pandemic means children and young people are actively engaged in meaningful learning while health and well-being remain a top priority,” says Elago. “Hindi sukatan ng pagkatuto ang grado na de numero. Nagbago na ang moda ng pagkatuto, bakit hindi na rin baguhin muna sang-ayon sa kasalukuyang sitwasyon ang sistema ng pagbibigay ng grado at ebalwasyon ng pagkatuto?”

During this pandemic, adjustments need to be made. Institutions should know what to prioritize. As we’ve mentioned in our article regarding online classes, this setup isn’t for everyone and the call for mass promotion even prompted students to hack their school website.

“Inclusive education in the time of pandemic means children and young people are actively engaged in meaningful learning while health and well-being remain a top priority.”

“Online classes and academic term extension, instead of promoting continuity, have only widened the learning inequality around the digital and income gap in the Philippines,” says Elago on the partylist’s Facebook post.

Taking care of students and prioritizing their well-being should be the top priority of their institutions and the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED). “The government must take the necessary steps to create equal opportunities for meaningful dialogue to shape relevant education policies during and after COVID-19,” says Elago.

With a call for relevant and inclusive education in place, we spoke to House Representative Sarah Elago about the ongoing battle students are facing.

For institutions who still insist on online classes, what should inclusive education look like in the time of pandemic?
The right to education must be protected, and equal opportunities to continue learning must be created through preparation, training, orientation and funding for remote and blended learning, along with the implementation of public health risk mitigation measures.

Inclusive education should reject any proposal from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to slash the budget for the implementation of Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education law or R.A. 10931. We oppose the proposed 35 percent budget cut in RA 10931, because it will worsen the situation of students and hold back public universities and colleges combating COVID-19. Instead of budget cuts, critical decision-making now can be an opportunity to review policies in education.

What are your thoughts on the “kung gusto may paraan, kung ayaw may dahilan” mindset from professors who still hand out requirements to students in this current situation?
Ang kasalukuyang estudyante ay nag-enroll sa residential learning dahil sa parehong pagkakataon na binibigay ng mga kampus at mga pasilidad nito para sa edukasyon, mula sa klasrum, laboratoryo, workshop, libreng Wi-Fi at iba pa. Dahil sa pagsasara ng mga eskwelahan, iba-iba na ang kalagayan ng mga estudyante. Those who do not have access to gadgets and internet at home are disproportionately affected. Students must not be penalized for challenges that are already out of their control during a global pandemic.

What do you think should be the proper assistance for students during online classes?
First, plan and prepare according to overall health and socio-economic situation, and survey outcomes of the present needs and concerns of learners and educators. Second, ensure support for the health and well-being of the learning community. Preparation and orientation must include parents, guardians and companions at home. Third, provide free internet connectivity and availability of gadgets with learning materials that can still be accessed offline.

“Students must not be penalized for challenges that are already out of their control during a global pandemic.”

Do you think mass promotion for students is the way to go?
The transition to online classes and extension of the academic term are being used to legitimize collection of the full tuition and other school fees. These are quarantined families who are suffering from a loss of income due to unemployment, “no work, no pay” status, or closure of businesses. It adds pressure at an already tremendously difficult time, and it has already taken a toll on students’ mental health.

Ending the current academic term now and crediting courses with a passing grade provide a fair, non-discriminatory and equitable option for all students who are under difficult circumstances during a public health crisis.

What actions should be taken by institutions to fully utilize education without leaving students behind?
There must be a nationally-coordinated pandemic response and recovery plan for education, alongside the promotion of health literacy and provision of an emergency relief fund for student and faculty aid.

Having no general framework for education institutions, ensuring the right to education and academic freedom with fair, non-discriminatory and equitable measures can gravely affect not only student access and mobility, but also their future employment, career and role in nation-building.

Read more: Online classes are in session, but it’s not for everyone

What should be the right platform for education to move forward in the upcoming school year?
All platforms—from e-learning, TV and radio to printed materials—must be used to reach all children and young people in marginalized and vulnerable situations, leaving no student behind.

Read more:
This art student transformed canned goods into protest statements
4 Bicol University students hacked their school website in the name of mass promotion
Sorry, Class of 2020: There won’t be any graduation ceremonies for now

Art by Tine Paz

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