November 23, 2021 | 13:17
MANILA, Philippines – The Education Department said on Tuesday that no cases of COVID-19 had been reported so far in schools with limited physical learning, but noted challenges among participants to follow protocols health in classrooms.
Assistant Education Secretary Malcolm Garma said in a briefing that 7,324 Filipino students have returned to public schools, the first time since the start of the pandemic.
DepEd’s two-month pilot study allows 100 public schools and 20 private schools to start limited in-person classes with more expected to be included soon.
Garma reported that no infections were detected in the 56 public schools that submitted reports to the agency.
But, he said, some had shown symptoms of the virus. They were: eight students with a fever, 76 with a cough and a cold, and one with a sore throat.
A school staff member also suffered from coughs and colds, while a visitor had a fever, the official added.
“This is one of the things we have to stress,” Garma said, partly in Filipino. “In terms of our parents’ guidance and knowledge of symptoms, they already know how to check even from home.”
DepEd and the Ministry of Health are the main government agencies responsible for implementing the face-to-face course pilot study.
The two had avoided requiring COVID-19 testing for students, teaching and non-teaching staff. In September, the DOH said people with symptoms would instead be sent to isolation centers.
Inside classrooms, Garma said schools have noticed that students have a tendency to remove their masks from time to time, especially among those in kindergarten.
“This is expected because they are probably not used to it yet,” he added in Filipino. “It’s one of the things we want to build into face-to-face learning.
Some students also forget to respect physical distancing measures, sometimes approaching classmates.
Outside of classrooms, the education official called on local governments to ensure that individuals also wear their masks. Garma said some visitors also forget to log in for contact tracing purposes.
“It is not only for safety but also for adults to set an example for children,” he added, still in Filipino.
DepEd also identified vaccinating parents against COVID-19 as a challenge for resuming in-person learning, saying some have yet to receive a vaccine.
According to official data, 33.84 million Filipinos are already fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or 43.88% of the government’s target of 77.13 million this year.