By Gabriel Kim Leal
Photo credit: Manila Bulletin
On the third day of classes for the new academic year, the Department of Education (DepEd) said that enrollees for school year 2021-2022 have reached 26.3 million, surpassing the previous year’s 26.2 million enrollees, as of Wednesday, September 15.
Based on DepEd’s Learner Information System (LIS) Quick Count, a total of 26,308,875 enrollees have been recorded from both public and private schools nationwide including the 53,292 students enrolled in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs)/Local Universities and Colleges (LUCs).
The figures represent 100.3% of last year’s enrollment, with 11 out of 17 regions in the country hitting over 100% of their 2020 enrollment rate.
Of all regions, the data showed that Region IV-A obtains the highest number of enrollees with 3,440,205, followed by Region III with 2,579,984, and the National Capital Region with 2,415,663.
“We thank our field offices, school heads, and teachers for their dedication and hardwork in encouraging the public to enroll. Likewise, we are grateful to the parents of our learners who continue to put their trust and support in DepEd and for learning continuity amidst the pandemic,” the department said in a statement.
The DepEd also said that it expects the “figure to increase since enrollment is extended until September 30.”
Not a ‘victory’
During the opening of classes on September 13, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that opening the school for the second time in a pandemic was a “celebration of victories and successes.” Her statement received criticisms from the public as teachers and students welcomed the school year with “the same problems."
In a media interview, a teachers' group said some teachers still had to deal with the shortage of learning modules and internet allowance.
“Parang halos walang pinagbago. Marami sa amin ang nagre-report na wala pa silang mga modules to think na opening na ng klase… Nagbigay naman yung DepEd ng data allowance through sim cards, pero most teachers ay kumuha na ng prepaid, yung iba ay postpaid,” said Benjo Basas, chairperson of Teachers’ Dignity Coalition.
(It seems like almost nothing has changed. Many have reported to us that they still don’t receive the modules, to think that classes have already started. The DepEd has provided data allowance through sim cards, but most teachers have already availed of prepaid, some of postpaid [plans].)
Meanwhile, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Partylist Representative France Castro said the situation only worsened “because there are still no plans and funds for the safe return of classes.”
By the end of September, the Philippines and Venezuela will be the only countries that have yet to reopen schools since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly rejected the proposal of DepEd to hold face-to-face classes, saying that sending students back to schools is a risk he cannot take.
Kabataan Partylist National Spokesperson Raoul Manuel criticized the actions of the government, saying that “schools are not the main drivers of Covid-19 transmission” and that most parents "support face-to-face classes in low-risk areas."
“Children account for a very small portion of confirmed cases, have milder symptoms, and have not contributed significantly to the proportion of hospitalized cases and reported deaths,” said Manuel.