Tue. Mar 9th, 2021
(Photo Courtesy: http://www.philstar.com)

UNICEF Philippines is recommending the conduct of pilot face-to-face classes in low-risk areas in the Philippines starting March as it underscored the need for a “safe and progressive” return to in-person schooling.

“The negative effects of keeping schools closed have been documented extensively and include learning loss, dropouts, mental health, and socio-emotional aspects, teen pregnancy, among others,” it said.

“Given that the ongoing health crisis will only exacerbate inequalities, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized who have limited access to the internet, digital technology, and other home-based support systems, it is crucial to facilitate the safe, progressive return to in-person schooling as soon as possible,” it added.

Citing a recent study by the World Bank on the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) on Philippine households, UNICEF Philippines said only 20 percent of school-aged children were engaged in learning activities while adhering to community quarantine guidelines.

In an email, UNICEF Philippines on Monday listed the five following “incremental approaches” the education sector could take starting next month:

— Start a pilot in March 2021 in low-risk areas

— Modify the omnibus guidelines of community quarantine to allow children to go out

— Prepare for nationwide face-to-face classes in the next school year (Aug. 2021)

— Prioritize teachers for vaccine rollout, and;

— Continue investing and supporting distance learning modalities.

UNICEF vowed to support the country through the development of guidelines and protocols on safe school reopening based on best practices and lessons learned from other countries.

The agency said it would also provide essential supplies, learning resources for teachers, children, and parents, and develop communication strategies and materials with a focus on the most vulnerable population, especially those at risk of dropping out.

The statement came days after UN Philippines resident coordinator Gustavo Gonzales revealed that the cost of closing schools is “now much higher from a social, health, and economic viewpoint” than allowing children for in-person learning. SOVEREIGNPH

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