Aside from economic recovery, the learning recovery of more than 25 million learners in the basic education sector is also at stake in the timely rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, Senator Win Gatchalian said.
According to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, the safe reopening of schools should be a government priority to prevent an escalation of the current “learning crisis” and mitigate the long-term effects of prolonged school closures such as learning losses and gaps, widening inequalities, mental distress, and increased exposure to violence, among others.
In rolling out the COVID-19 vaccination program, Gatchalian reiterated the need to include teachers in priority groups, citing their role as frontliners in learning continuity. He also emphasized that health protocols should remain in place, including the wearing of masks, physical distancing, and ensuring the availability of handwashing and sanitation facilities.
In a January 2021 journal article, officials from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that a safe return to schools is possible if steps are taken to reduce community transmission and limit school-related activities that increase transmission risk. CDC officials cited a study covering 17 K to 12 schools in rural Wisconsin, where mask wearing has been implemented. The study revealed that for 13 weeks in the fall of 2020, only seven out of 191 cases in staff and students were linked to in-school transmission.
On the other hand, crowded classrooms, insufficient physical distancing, and exemption from face mask use caused a large high school outbreak in Israel in May 2020 when two mildly symptomatic students attended classes.
Last October, the United Nations said in a policy brief that suppressing the transmission of the virus is the single most significant step that countries can take to hasten the reopening of schools and education institutions.
“Ngayong malapit na ang pagpapabakuna kontra COVID-19, dapat din nating bigyan ng prayoridad ang ligtas na pagbabalik ng mga mag-aaral sa kanilang mga paaralan, kung saan mas magagabayan sila ng kanilang mga guro at makakasalamuha na nila ang kanilang mga kapwa mag-aaral,” said Gatchalian.