Senator Win Gatchalian lauded the provisions in the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) that will help schools foster continuity of learning through loans and other subsidies while ensuring job security of teachers and other school personnel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the ratified bicameral conference committee report on the Bayanihan 2, academic institutions will have increased access to funds for the purchase of distance learning tools. For private institutions, however, availing these loans or grants have these conditions: retention of personnel and no retrenchment of employees for at least nine months upon receipt of aid.
Gatchalian cited Section 4 (iii) of Bayanihan 2 which calls for the provision of loan assistance, subsidies, discounts or grants to schools, universities and colleges, and technical vocational institutions for the purchase of information and communications technology (ICT) devices and equipment to be used under alternative delivery modes of teaching and learning, including computers, laptops, and tablets. Aside from schools, teachers and students can also apply for these loans and other forms of financial assistance.
These loans and aid will be made available through the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in partnership with government financial institutions (GFIs). The loans, however, should have terms that are more reasonable than those prevailing in the market.
Gatchalian recalled that a survey on micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) presented in May by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Finance (DOF) showed that the education sector had the second highest number of job losses at 130,514 when the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was implemented in areas including the National Capital Region (NCR).
The lawmaker also added that for many schools, especially the smaller ones with limited resources and technical expertise, the cost of transitioning to distance learning is a financial burden.
At a Senate panel hearing held earlier this month, Gatchalian emphasized the need to help more than 1,000 small private universities with limited financial capacities. He pointed out that if these small private universities are not able to install remote learning systems, learning for the 525,000 students enrolled in these institutions will be hampered.
Sa ilalim ng Bayanihan 2, hindi lamang natin matutulungan ang ating mga paaralang maipagpatuloy ang edukasyon sa pamamagitan ng distance learning. Mabibigyan din natin ng proteksyon ang mga trabaho ng ating mga guro at kawani sa panahon na ang ating ekonomiya ay humaharap sa isang matinding krisis na dulot ng COVID-19,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.
Gatchalian concluded that in the long run, helping schools invest in their ICT infrastructure would accelerate modernization in the education sector, which in turn would equip learners with competencies required of the 21st century and Industry 4.0.