The General’s presence in the Philippine’s war against ignorance

Philippine Education Secretary Leonor Briones, preparations for distance or blended learning on August 24 are in full swing. Distance learning will include the use of printed or digital modules delivered to the homes of students, or picked up by parents at designated places following coordinated schedules, as well as the use of online learning resources such as “DepEd Commons” and educating through television or radio-based instruction. But does this mean the Department of Education (DepEd) is now ready for the school year 2020-2021?

Blended learning, according to the Education Secretary, includes online learning. Unfortunately, teachers are complaining of the lack of gadgets particularly computers or laptops. If the teachers have been shouldering chalks and other school items during the pre-Covid-19 period, should they now shoulder the computers and top it up with Internet connection?

Even the communications arm of DepEd appears lost in its messages thus creating confusion and distress among learners. With too much emphasis on online classes, learners are negatively affected that an incoming Grade 9 student of Sto. Domingo Highschool in Albay committed suicide. Apparently, just like the teachers and the majority of learners around the country, he was also struggling on how to produce the necessary gadgets to cope up with his schooling.

But while DepEd preparations are under way for the online (at least for the inputs), nothing is mentioned for the offline — except the idea of distributing transistor radios. Updates on the discussions with radio companies and on the preparations for the printed materials are still missing. Worse, discussions on the role of the parents are even out of the picture. Will the learners learn on their own?

Unfortunately, the DepEd is not only unprepared but it is also alone in this battle against ignorance. Could this be because the President was serious in his “No vaccine, no classes” pronouncement? Our online and telephone connectivity guys headed by Secretary Gringo Honasan are still finding their way to the battle field. In Maco, Davao de Oro, for instance, several teachers were forced to set up tents on the side of the highway to get internet access and attend a three-day webinar organized by the DepEd. But the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has millions of pesos for intelligence funds. Was the fund not enough to hire a few people to roam around the country plotting where the dead spots are? Or, has our DICT head lost the balls to compel Philippine telcos to provide sustainable internet and telephone connection?

While India is struggling to use WhatsApp for an interactive learning, we are back to the cruder times when transistor radios were the medium of one-sided instruction. Is the President afraid to show that Philippines is retrogressing that is why he was initially afraid to open the school gates this year and thus issuing the “No vaccine, No classes” pronouncement?

Perdóname, but if the President can flex his muscle in the war against drugs, the more that he can move his finger in the war against ignorance. If he can certify as urgent the Anti-Terrorism Bill, the more that he can he certify as urgent the restoration of the budget cut for education. Not unless the President wants to play by the old book on leadership that says it is easier to govern when the people are ignorant. But if that is the Duterte’s style of leadership, how come he and Sarah worked hard to make the Davao City population literate? According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, Davao City has 97.9% literacy rate in 1995, one of the highest in the country.

Note that the President got both the Senate and the House of Representatives act on the passage of Anti-Terrorism Law. Ain’t ignorance more terrorizing enough? With ignorance, more will be drawn to the ideology that Senator Tito Sotto says is the cause of terrorism — assuming that the same is really the cause. But realistically, the lack of education fuels ignorance and, with ignorance, people will keep on voting undeserving politicians. The presence of these undeserving politicians in government offices will in turn lead to poor policies and government services that will trigger the people to act against the government.

We know that the President is not that stupid to understand that the functions accompanying the position he is holding is just like walking in the park. He is rich with experience as a city mayor, an executive position that also entails balancing the interests of different sectors including the education sector. Clearly, the DepEd is not ready for the school year and this problem is not just an issue of the education department. This is everybody’s issue and that includes the national chief executive’s. Can the President provide more presence to address this? He is the highest general in the war against ignorance.

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