PASIG CITY, March 23, 2020 – The Department of Education (DepEd) is leaving no stone unturned in responding to the current public health emergency as Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones said that recent DepEd policies and actions are done to ensure that the welfare of its learners and staff are prioritized.
“This is how things need to be done [in this current situation]. Government has to continue, education has to continue, services have to be delivered, salaries and benefits have to be paid,” Secretary Briones said in the virtual press conference on Monday.
One of the initiatives undertaken was the fast-track processing and release of the salaries of employees for March and April. This includes personnel under Contract of Service (COS) and Job Order (JO) set-up.
DepEd is also looking to provide additional provident funds to field offices to be readily available. These funds will assist them with urgent, critical and immediate responses related to COVID-19 threats and in support for affected personnel.
In addition, upon clearance from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Department is set to issue the Php 6,000 clothing allowance for regular employees, and the Performance-Based Bonus (PBB) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 for school-based personnel.
Briones also stated that DepEd is closely coordinating with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to streamline guidelines for COVID-19 response.
“We are cooperating very closely with the IATF-EID. We are responding on an hourly and daily basis to issues which arise from the ground, especially on the matter of quarantine areas,” the DepEd chief said.
With the guidance of Sec. Briones, the Department has released directives and guidelines to ensure that heightened precautions are observed in DepEd offices and schools, including the observance of social distancing measures for the remainder of the school year 2019-2020, postponement of various national and regional activities, and temporary suspension of school-related undertaking.
Meanwhile, the work arrangement in DepEd emphasizes on the protection of all DepEd personnel. This arrangement is guided by its framework on the observance of stringent social distancing, continuity of delivery of essential services and priority programs, and consistency of the actions of officials and personnel.
For learners, DepEd provided alternative learning delivery platforms in lieu of class suspension, such as DepEd Commons. Since its inception last Wednesday, March 17, a total of 446,787 teachers have joined the said online platform, gaining support and praise from teachers as well as parents.
However, Undersecretary Pascua noted that online platforms are only given as an option for those who have access to such medium.
“We acknowledge the reality of situation wherein DepEd Commons and Open Education Resources (OER) are not accessible to all teachers and learners. Many of our schools still do not have connectivity and access to Internet. But in this extraordinary situation we find ourselves in, we must walk before we run. We must start somewhere and work our way towards the ideal where all teachers and learners in the country can access such resources,” Undersecretary Pascua said.
Amidst the situation, Briones said that DepEd is also keen on continuing Sulong EduKalidad, the Department’s program to address the challenges of quality in basic education.
“We should not abandon Sulong EduKalidad. It is a very tough, challenging, and exciting task to balance our existing programs with the immediate and urgent necessities at this time,” she emphasized.
Salute to frontliners
Aside from reporting actions taken by DepEd, Sec. Briones also thanked and wished good health to those people at the frontline of confronting the public health crisis.
“On behalf of DepEd, I would like to express our admiration, our prayers, and good wishes for our heroes in this situation,” Briones said.
Briones also extended the Department’s commendation to teachers and officials, as well as people from different agencies, who helped transporting stranded delegates of the National Schools Press Conference (NSPC) and National Festival of Talents (NFOT) back to their respective homes during the outbreak of COVID-19.
“Gusto kong magbigay pugay sa ating mga teachers, sa ating mga officials, who joined hands in the successful return of our learners to their homes from Cagayan and Isabela. This is an excellent example of cooperation of agencies,” she said.