The Philippines is currently under a State of National Health Emergency and a State of Calamity. Classes from kindergarten to college are cancelled until 14 April 2020 but the government is not conducting extensive testing nor providing enough support for the population. The Alliance of Concerned Teachers is mobilising to inform communities about the crisis and advocating for sound measures to be taken to minimise the impact of the pandemic.
As of 20 March 2020, there are 217 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, with 17 fatalities. The entire Luzon island which accounts for approximately half of the population of the Philippines is placed under General Community Quarantine, while the National Capital Region is under Enhanced Community Quarantine, sending the residents of 16 cities and one municipality to strict home quarantine. Several cities and provinces outside of Luzon island also adopted the general quarantine measure. While necessary, the measures mean that people are left unable to work and support their families.
A complete lockdown of all schools has been imposed. However, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Education International affiliate in the Philippines, reports that some school directors requested teachers to come to school to disinfect classrooms and the entire school, process students’ report cards and other paperwork. ACT has mobilised and has informed the Department of Education of these cases, urging that the health and safety of education workers be prioritised. At the request of unions, the government has paid teachers’ salaries.
In addition, ACT called on the government to implement a set of measures that would help to support millions of affected citizens to cope with the crisis and its consequences. The measures the union advocates for include:
- Providing a sound and comprehensive medical response to the crisis, especially by setting up triage and quarantine areas in communities and by conducting mass testing on all people suspected of having contracted the virus.
- Providing economic relief package to families whose work and livelihood had been affected by the lockdown.
- Providing financial assistance to all teachers, employees and workers.
- Implementing a moratorium in the collection of loan payments to ease the financial burden many are facing.
ACT will be launching its online education program ACT for People’s Health. Educational videos will be produced and online classes will be conducted to provide factual information about COVID-19, critical analysis of the local and global situation, practical tips for prevention of and recovery from the illness, and sound policy proposals to battle the health crisis. The materials will be produced in two versions: for children and for the general public. Materials will be translated to major regional languages.