Activist youth group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) has demanded CHEd Commissioner Prospero De Vera to step down from office after his announcement last week that the conduct of flexible learning will be the norm until the next school year angered students, parents and netizens alike.
The group said that the CHEd commissioner’s announcement exposed how “out of touch” he was with the conditions of the students and professors given that it has been more than a year since the ill-advised and unpopular online classes was introduced as the mode of learning by education agencies.
Weeks prior, Commissioner De Vera gave a go signal to various medical schools to conduct limited face-to-face classes for the next semester and has been eyeing engineering and IT courses as well. But then just recently, he announced that flexible learning for higher education “is here to stay”.
“It took more than a year before you finally realized that your deregulated, private sector-dependent educational system exacerbated by the pandemic is designed for the privileged and leaves out the poor. In that same year, 38 people had died and millions more had dropped out or were unable to enroll,” said John Lazaro, national coordinator and spokesperson of SPARK.
“For a year, millions of students were unable to cope up with distance learning, mostly due to lack of access to proper gadgets, unreliability of an internet connection and electricity supply especially in the countryside which resulted in inaccessible education,” he added.
The group pointed out that demands from gadget and internet subsidy to the inclusion of internet access to the list of basic human rights to the nationalization of the telecommunication industry and electricity and the call for mass vaccination to facilitate the safe return to school, all of which Commissioner De Vera never took action nor even listened to.
“Why do you keep on pushing for a New Normal educational set up down our throats when clearly it is not feasible in this time of pandemic?” he argued. “The investments you’ve mentioned were necessary, however, it’s just plain useless when we can’t make use of it because we can’t even afford schooling.”
The group also mentioned how he let universities increase tuition fees even if the students are just studying at home for the reason that the former are already losing money. They also added that Commissioner De Vera did not even order universities to refund tuition fees from the academic year 2019-2020 after the pandemic abruptly ended classes.
“A year is long enough for you to take action but you failed miserably in your mandate to make education accessible to all. Your mix and match proposal reeks with insensitivity and will only lead to the systematic exclusion of millions of students from stepping foot in a university,” Lazaro said.
SPARK also called on all student councils and campus organizations to unite and utilize all available means to push for the right of the youth to accessible and quality education, which is currently threatened by the CHEd’s proposal.