September 29, 2021— The World Health Organization (WHO) and other organizations of pediatric health professionals on Monday applauded the joint effort of the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Health (DOH) in creating safety measures for the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes.

“We thank the Department of Health and the Department of Education for their commitment, the tenacity, and the continuing interest they have shown in getting this pilot off the ground,” WHO representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe shared after witnessing the ceremonial signing of the DepEd-DOH guidelines for the pilot run.

Citing that schools are part of a community, Dr. Abeyasinghe underscored the importance of an all-of-society approach and solidarity at the community level to keep schools safe and reduce transmission of COVID-19 once the pilot run of face-to-face classes in a maximum of 120 schools commences.

“This is all about taking a risk-based approach. WHO, together with our partners, will continue to work closely with the Government – especially with the Department of Health and the Department of Education – to support safe in-person learning beginning with this pilot project,” Dr. Abeyasinghe added.

Along with WHO, the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSPI) and the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) expressed their support for the implementation of the pilot face-to-face, underscoring the guidelines set by DepEd and DOH will ensure the safety of participating learners.

“May tiwala ang PIDSPI na ang mga hakbang na naibalangkas ng DOH at DepEd, sa tulong ng LGUs, WHO, UNICEF at Pediatrics Specialty Societies ay ligtas para sa mag-aaral mga guro at iba pang staff ng paaralan upang mapanatiling malinis ang loob ng paaralan,” Dr. Mary Ann Bunyi, President of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines, said.

PPS President Dr. Joselyn Alonzo-Eusebio echoed the message, and added that “the age group of 5 to 8 years old has been identified to be the least affected by COVID-19 and the most in need of actual face-to-face learning as far as basic reading and writing are concerned”.

“After several consultative meetings with DepEd and DOH, the Philippine Pediatric Society agrees with this recommendation for the resumption of face-to-face classes for selected pilot schools which pass the safety school readiness evaluation in minimal to low-risk COVID-19 areas for Key Stage 1 group or ages 5-8 years old,” Dr. Alonzo-Eusebio said.

WHO and other partner agencies vowed to continue working with DepEd and DOH in assisting the agencies in the pilot face-to-face and the next phases of the implementation.

“Thank you very much for your support, all of those who have participated in this long but very careful process,” Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones shared.