More than 18.6 million students in basic education have registered for the coming school year, the Department of Education (DepEd) said Wednesday.
In a press conference, DepEd spokesman Michael Poa said the figure was about 64 percent to 67 percent of the agency’s target of 28.6 million students.
Poa urged parents to enroll their children as soon as possible to help schools prepare for the school year.
He noted that in previous years, students enroll on the last day of enrollment or even during school opening, while classes are ongoing.
Having “concrete” enrollment figures would help DepEd carry out strategies to deal with COVID-19, dengue, and monkeypox, Poa said.
The DepEd assured the public that schools are expected to have an infection control plan for the opening of in-person classes this month, considering the possible surge of COVID-19 cases.
The DepEd made the statement in a press briefing in response to the OCTA Research Group’s pronouncement that cases could go up once the in-person classes resume.
“We take OCTA Research seriously as guidance. However, we look also at the study of [the United Nations Children’s Fund]. There’s actually no direct correlation between in-person classes and transmission, as long as the minimum safety standards are observed, most particularly the wearing of face masks. That is important,” Poa said.
Poa noted that under DepEd Order 34, schools are required to have an “infection containment” strategy.
The DepEd, meanwhile, assured the public it is coordinating with the Department of Health to promote the government’s vaccination campaign, as well as counseling that will be launched per region.
It maintained its stance that the vaccination remains voluntary and that no one will be discriminated against for being unvaccinated.
“There will be no discrimination. So this year, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, the teachers, the non-teaching staff, and the learners, all of them can go to school and teachers can conduct classes,” he said.
The DepEd has also confirmed that the budget for the construction of temporary learning spaces in quake-affected areas has already been downloaded.
Poa said the cost needed to build each temporary walled and roofed learning space is P180,000.
He said they are also conducting a mapping of affected areas to identify students who need additional learning materials like books.
At the same time, the department said it will either do a “quick fix” or avail of the warranty for the allegedly “pricey” laptops that the agency had bought for its distance learning program.
Poa said they will also “closely coordinate” with the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) over the laptop purchase which the Commission on Audit had earlier flagged.
“We will use a two-pronged approach. First, let’s evaluate and see if these laptops are truly slow and do an internal quick fix in the department, if we have one, to help the teachers,” he said.
“The second is legal in nature. If these computers are slow and not at par with what we wanted, these computers, as I understand, are still under warranty so we will invoke the warranty provision in our contract with our laptop suppliers,” he added.
Poa said they also wanted to know why the laptops, worth P58,300 each but with relatively lower specifications, were procured instead of those with higher specifications.
He, however, said it would still be unfair to comment without having seen the documentation of the purchase.
Poa said the PS-DBM was “very cooperative” with their request and vowed to look into the matter.
Also on Wednesday, the state pension fund Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) said it will adopt a total of 25 schools nationwide this year as it partners with DepEd once again for the 2022 Adopt-A-School Program (ASP), as part of its corporate social responsibility.
“With the reopening of face-to-face classes, our government needs help in addressing the logistical constraints faced by public schools. This year, we have increased the amount of the Adopt-a-School program assistance package from P300,000 last year to P400,000 for each of the 25 beneficiary schools,” GSIS president and general manager Wick Veloso said.
The pension fund chief pointed out that this CSR program is also in response to the call of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during his State of the Nation Address, to help provide assistive devices such as computers, internet connectivity, and educational tools so that children might participate fully in the digital community here and abroad.”
GSIS has allocated a total of P10 million for the adoption of 25 DepEd schools across the country. The DepEd program encourages partner agencies from the government and private sector to address the needs of government schools located in the poorest provinces or low-income municipalities.