Press Release
March 1, 2021

Senate Resolution No. 668: Pilot Testing of Localized Limited Face-to-Face Classes
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto

Mr. President, my dear colleagues:

This resolution is in effect an assignment that we're giving to DepEd, a science experiment that will test how safe in-person learning can be done.

These laboratory classes will be conducted in 1,065 schools, or two percent of the national total, a sample size that would be enough.

I believe that discussions on how to open classes that will maximize learning but minimize risks should now move from theory to trials.

It is time to put in practice what has been postulated on paper. It is time to end this analysis paralysis.

More than a hundred years ago when the Spanish Flu wreaked havoc on our land, our educators were forced to search for new windows of learning. And they did—literally—by opening windows to facilitate ventilation. They also brought classes outdoors.

This is the same tack epidemiologists are prescribing today, that in this age of N95s and hazmat suits, one thing that helped then can still help now: fresh, free flow of air.

What I am driving at, Mr. President, is that our bureaucratic forebears were open to ideas and bold in their actions.

This precedent is carried in the preamble and parameters that this resolution has set for the pilot classes.

That the classes follow strict health protocols, that they observe mitigation measures, that they adhere to the design of such classes which have been conducted abroad.

And if I may add, Mr. President, that they should only be held after the community consensus to support them has been secured through consultations.

This is very important. Because if it takes a village to safely teach a child, then DepEd cannot unilaterally act. Parents, leaders should be on board.

In two weeks, we will be marking the anniversary of what is virtually the longest school vacation in history. We can mark it with more of the same, as captives of the pandemic, or we can launch a new way of learning, outside the confines of the one square foot of computer screen.

If we continue our children's mass incarceration—in congested houses crammed with three generations of families, of which many double as a home for the sick, in communities which are bandwidth deprived—then I fear that we are creating a lost generation.

Children may have evaded the virus, but many have caught a sickness as dangerous. Many suffer from mental health issues caused by a setting deprived of peer interaction and play.

And if they live in unsafe homes where tensions are exacerbated by loss of income and shortage of food, the damage could be long lasting. Indeed, they slowly broil in air-fryer conditions.

The larger picture is that the pandemic has hit hard a school system with severe preexisting conditions.

Long before the first coronavirus-carrying bat of Wuhan bit its first victim, our country had already been lagging behind in many international tests that measure learning.

And many fear that this pandemic will allow us to bag the last spot uncontested.

Yes, the greatest gate pass to schools remains to be the vaccine.

But the virus is such a constantly mutating genius that even if our children and teachers have been vaccinated, the return to standing-room-only schools will not be immediate.

We are waging the microbiological version of the Star Wars: the Jedi can return, but the empire can strike back.

So there is absolutely no doubt as to how important the results of the trials will be. It will guide us how to transition to the new but better normal. This is the science experiment that will move us forward.

It is not only a chosen group of kids who should go back to school. DepEd officials should go back to school with them. Those who teach are bound by the duty to continually study.

I support this measure. This is not a mere sense of the Senate resolution. This packs common sense.

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