Left behind

Left behind

Among the most touching stories this week was that of a teacher who operates her own small private elementary school in Metro Manila. When the COVID pandemic hit, many parents could no longer complete the tuition payments for their children. Even if she was saddled with IOUs, the teacher still issued certificates of completion of school year 2019-2020 to all the pupils.

As the health crisis dragged on, however, parents lost their livelihoods or saw their earnings drastically cut, and could no longer afford to send their children back to school. With enrollment plummeting, the teacher was forced to shut down her school. These days she sells home-cooked food. A sign at her stall says she’s a teacher rendered jobless in this pandemic and needing assistance.

She is not alone. Data from the Department of Education showed that about 440 private elementary and high schools around the country, including 54 in Metro Manila and 88 in Central Luzon, are suspending operations for this school year because of low enrollment. What will happen to the teachers, other school employees and students?

DepEd has noted an increase in the number of students transferring from private to public schools in this pandemic, with 380,000 transferees from kindergarten to high school. Many parents, however, are opting to keep their children out of school for a year, even if online learning will protect the kids from coronavirus infection. A major concern is the lack of gadgets and internet connectivity for blended learning.

Nearly four million students – 2.75 million in private schools and over one million in public schools – have yet to enroll this school year, according to DepEd. That’s a lot of students who stand to be left behind as their peers continue with formal education. There’s still over a month before the rescheduled start of classes in public schools. As the government works out assistance for private schools, more effort should be done to increase student participation in the new learning modalities.