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Teachers’ group urges free COVID-19 testing for educators, students

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines on Tuesday called on the government to provide free mass testing for educators and students before classes resume.

In a statement, ACT said that testing should be considered one of the pre-requisites for the opening of public and private schools.

Students and teachers with symptoms and exposure to COVID-19 cases, or without symptoms but exposed to COVID-19 cases; or have COVID-like symptoms but no exposure should all be tested, ACT said.

Those who are vulnerable like senior citizens and people with comorbidities, as well as women with risky pregnancies should also be tested.

ACT added that a fund should be allotted for the establishment of health and safety measures at the school level. The school should also set up clinics and hire nurses on the campus.

The school setup should meanwhile observe 4-meter spaces between individuals in face-to-face classes. Water supply, hygiene kits, sanitation and utility services should be available, ACT said.

Aside from the health and safety measures, ACT said the following should be raised as pre-requisites in opening the classes:

  • comprehensive medical and socio-economic response to the crisis
  • access to quality education, which is not limited to technological resources
  • protection education workers’ labor rights and grant necessary benefits
  • democratic consultations with teachers, parents, and learners

“Without addressing all five, no return to schools shall take place. The safety of students and teachers comes first,” ACT Secretary-General Raymond Basilio said.

Basilio said stakeholders should question the Department of Education’s (DepEd) plan to open classes by August, and calling on public school teachers and employees to report back to work by June 1.

“Briones’ pep talk on fighting fears and teaching our students courage does not assuage our apprehensions as they are based on our rational assessment of the country’s present condition,” he argued.

“Teachers are always willing to stand on the frontlines of education, but opening our schools when there is no indication that the pandemic has effectively been combatted puts the health and safety of the education sector, especially the students, in great peril.” — DVM, GMA News