QUEZON City Rep. Precious Hipolito-Castelo yesterday urged the Department of Education to postpone classes in areas devastated by typhoons Rolly and Ulysses, saying students have no access to the internet because there is no electricity, no access to water and other basic resources while dealing with the threats of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The least we can do to help those in typhoon-ravaged communities in these trying times is give students and teachers and their families a respite from academic work,” she said, noting the typhoons left tens of thousands displaced and road and communications infrastructure damaged.
Castelo said DepEd can postpone classes “especially on long term cases, (disasters of) great magnitude and if it would affect a greater part of the country.”
“In fact it was DepEd that decided on postponement of face to face classes in the light of COVID-19,” she said.
Responding to Castelo’s call, DepEd Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio said local government units have the power to suspend classes during calamities.
“The officials of LGUs are the first responders at the areas affected by calamity, so they can decide if classes are still possible or not. DepEd regional offices should also work with the LGUs,” San Antonio said.
Meanwhile, classes at Polytechnic University of the Philippines have been suspended from November 16 until November 27 to allow students and faculty members to recover from the effects of the typhoons.
Ateneo de Manila, University of Santo Tomas and University of the East have also suspended classes from November 16 to 21 while classes from kinder to public high schools in Quezon City have been suspended from November 16 to 17.
Classes in preschool to senior high schools, both public and private, in Pasig have also been suspended from November 16-17.
Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro has suspended classes in all levels in the city for a month.
Castelo said many of those dislocated are housed temporarily in school buildings, while telecommunications companies are trying to restore service and “until such service is restored and there is strong, sustainable connectivity, distance learning is not possible.”
Castelo said the DepEd should give its regional, provincial, city, and municipal officials the discretion to determine areas in Bicol, Cagayan Valley and Metro Manila where online learning could be postponed and for how long. However, in areas not affected by the recent typhoons, she said teachers should continue conducting online classes.
“It is only humane to allow students to recover physically and mentally in the next few weeks. Grades should not add to the burden the academic community has to face in difficult times,” she said.
Castelo, who personally participated in rescue operations in flooded areas in her district, said education officials surely will not postpone classes just for the sake of postponing because they will have to recoup lost time by extending their school calendar or holding makeup learning session.
During the proposed postponement, she said education and local officials could clean school houses that were inundated by flood waters, while telecommunication companies are repairing their infrastructure. – With Noel Talacay and Christian Oineza