The Certain in Uncertainties
(by Jerome A. Soliven  5/17/2021)

Education is an essential process in building a nation. According to Tariq Jahan, an Indian educator, people without education are like weapons without bullets. Indeed, education makes the young people realize their latent qualities and abilities and develops these potentialities into strength. Education provides knowledge and develops the skills and competence of the people which eventually become the strength of a country which is a basic component of nation building.

Recognizing the roles of education in the society, the government through the Department of Education (DepEd) has been exerting a lot of efforts to give accessible education among Filipinos. Annually, the DepEd launches Oplan Balik Eskwela, a national campaign aiming to ensure that learners from kindergarten to senior high school are enrolled and would be able to attend the very first day of school. For years, the DepEd has been successful in its goals of providing free education among our learners. In fact, according to the department, last school year (2019 - 2020), there were more than 25 million learners enrolled in the basic education.

This school year, unfortunately, there has been a significant decline in the number of enrollment nationwide. From the recent report of DepEd (July 28, 2020), there were only 22 million enrolled learners in the country. This figure is three (3) million less than the enrollment last school year. According to Sec. Leonor Briones, the department is working so hard to convince the hesitant parents to pursue the education of their children despite the uncertainties brought by the pandemic.

What could be the factors that made some parents decide of not enrolling their children? Perhaps, it is because of COVID 19 which is very contagious and has killed millions of people around the world. As of writing, there have been 17 million plus cases of those affected by pandemic. In the Philippines, more than 93 thousand have been contacted with the illness; two thousand have died. This might be the main reason why parents have not wanted their children go to school. Relative to this, they do not want the learners to have face-to-face classes to avoid the transmission of the fatal disease.

As part of the education sector, how can we help the government convince the parents of sending their children to school? What we need now is to open the communication line with the parents and other stakeholders as often as possible. There is an urgent need to explain to all parents that at this moment the DepEd wants our youth to access education but seriously considers the health and lives of the learners. In fact, President Rodrigo Duterte already signed Republic Act 11480 giving him the power to reopen the school not earlier than August. The DepEd also agrees with the proposal of the president of not having face-to-face schooling. This is definitely to avoid the transmission of the disease.

Finding solutions to this concern, the government is now on the process of having best alternatives. The DepEd soon will distribute the modules needed for distance learning and home schooling. The use of technology such as access to internet with laptops, mobile phones, tablets and other gadgets is also taken into consideration. The government will also use television and radio - based modalities to deliver lessons to the learners who live in the remotest areas.

There are other logical reasons why many students are hindered going to school this school year. Emotionally and psychologically, most parents (if not the students) have things on their mind that really bother them of not sending their children to school. What does the school need to do to thwart the thinking of these parents? Schools should provide psychological interventions such as conferences and seminars to all parents and students. This is to make them prepared during the school opening. As mentioned, the school must let the parents understand that the security and safety of the learners is first and foremost concern of the DepEd.

If conducting face-to-face classes is not an option, then the mode of learning which focuses on modules is preferred. Are the parents then obliged in helping and assisting their children to cope with the lessons? In this set-up, the cooperation of parents is badly needed. Thus, each school must ensure a strong partnership with the parents remains intact in delivering quality education. But what if parents and other relatives are not capable of providing the assistance? Anticipating this scenario, the school should tap LGUs both municipal and barangay, NGOs and other volunteers to provide the needed help and support.

Now, the strength of humanity is gauged by this pandemic. Thus, we must be tougher and stronger than before in dealing with it. It is the time that we need to be more patient, committed and dedicated to our vocation and calling.

COVID 19 has given a lot of uncertainties not only in education system but also in the life of each Filipino. It makes each and everyone guess of what kind of tomorrow will be. But this pandemic must not stop us in building a nation through educating our young citizens. Fighting this pandemic while thinking of our children and their children’s children future, we remain facing big challenges. But as educators, we should hang tough; we should remain strong and focused on giving our best shot to make this country a better place to live in.

We should not let our fears stop us from this noble dream. The certainty in these uncertainties is what we need to overcome all these difficulties. Above all, let us have strong faith in God.

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