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CHED Kicks Off Targeted Jabs For Tertiary Students

CHED Kicks Off Targeted Jabs For Tertiary Students
Students of the medical technology program of the National University wear personal protective equipment as they attend their class on June 8, 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. NU kicked off its limited face-to-face classes on June 7, 2021 following health and safety protocols. Photo by KJ Rosales, The Philippine STAR

The government started implementing a targeted vaccination program for tertiary or college students on Wednesday, Oct. 13.

Prospero de Vera, chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), said the “Padyak Para sa Flexible Learning: Sama-samang vaccination program” kicked off in Pampanga.

According to De Vera, they are targeting the rapid inoculation of all students qualified to receive the COVID-19 jab, in line with the vaccination of the general public.

“No priority; we want to target all the students,” he said at a press briefing. The Department of Health (DOH) earlier said it has already started the vaccination of the general adult population and that it is ready to start pilot vaccination of pediatric patients on Friday, Oct. 15.

De Vera said that while vaccination would not be mandatory, CHED is encouraging students to receive the COVID-19 jab.

“There should be no reason why students will not get vaccinated. Is it required? It’s not, but we encourage it,” he said.

He explained the program is not only in support of the expansion of limited face-to-face (F2F) classes, but is also in line with the government’s goal to achieve herd immunity for the country.

“If there’s high level of vaccination, an additional layer of safety is there to start reopening our schools. What’s important is everybody’s vaccinated. We are not vaccinating because we want limited F2F, but it is the goal to vaccinate everyone,” he added.

However, De Vera explained it would be up to local government units (LGUs) to decide if they want to prioritize students allowed to have limited face-to-face classes since LGUs control the supply of vaccines.

Over 1,000 jabs were made available to students at the Mabalacat City College and the Our Lady of Fatima University-Pampanga on Wednesday.

De Vera said the student-targeted program would only be successful if it is supported by LGUs.

The CHED chief said they are aiming to expand the limited F2F classes for most degree programs by the second semester of this school year.

He noted that there is still time to craft proper guidelines, as only medicine, health-allied courses, as well as maritime, engineering and hotel and restaurant management, are currently allowed to resume F2F classes.

Currently, over 180 higher education institutions (HEIs) have been authorized to conduct in-person classes, involving over 20,000 students.

Out of the nearly 1,500 HEIs reporting to CHED, 53% had already tallied more than 75% vaccination rate among their staff and personnel.

Vaccination key

In a video message, Malacañang urged young Filipinos to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying it is the key to resuming in-person classes.

“Vaccines are very important. This is the key to returning to the life we were used to. It is the key to resuming face-to-face (classes) in our colleges and universities,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

“Congratulations to the youth who will get vaccinated today. The message to the youth is get vaccinated so we can go back to our normal lives,” he added.

“We know that without face-to-face classes, we cannot see our crushes we want to court or the suitors who we can say ‘yes’ to,” the Palace spokesman said in Filipino.

“I am happy that the romances in colleges and universities can continue because we already have vaccines we can inject on the shoulders of our youth,” he added.

Roque noted that the pandemic has affected the economy and has caused job losses and hunger. “While our youth still rely on their parents, they can feel it because if a lockdown is imposed, their mothers and fathers won’t have livelihood. But because of the vaccine, there will be more food on the table and there is a chance that we will all have a merrier Christmas,” Roque said.

“I hope the vaccination of the youth will continue because we have opened the vaccination to the general population so there is no reason for colleges and universities not to become 100 percent vaccinated,” he added.

Meanwhile, Education Secretary Leonor Briones highlighted the importance of the support of the private sector to address the learning crisis in the country.

“We are underspending in education in relation to our GDP (gross domestic product) and according to world standards. This is where the different sectors come in, this is where the international partners come in, this is where business comes in. An increasing number of business partners have been helping out,” she said at an online Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) general membership meeting.

Briones also said that collaboration between the government and the private sector is vital to improving pre-training of aspiring teachers.

Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) chairman Ramon del Rosario noted that there is still room for raising the standards of education in the country, at least to make it at par with those of other countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) “because those are the people we are competing with, whom we will encounter with the rest of the world.”

“The sooner we address these things the better for all of us,” he added.

DepEd has announced the initial release of the P1,000 World Teachers’ Day incentive for over 910,000 teachers and non-teaching personnel in the country.

The World Teachers’ Day benefit aims to acknowledge the role of educators during the pandemic and show appreciation for their dedication and commitment to the profession.

The processing of the incentive started in August and was completed in time for World Teachers’ Day on Oct. 5. – With Alexis Romero