A teacher’s group on Monday presented to the Department of Education (Deped) a five-point demand to ensure the safety of students and teachers when classes resume.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines said in a statement the lack of “sufficient mass testing” for the coronavirus and the decision to open the school year on Aug. 24 “puts the health and safety of the education sector, especially the students, in great peril.”

“The government has not conducted sufficient mass testing and effective contact tracing, while the healthcare system continues to grapple in fighting the pandemic with its very limited capacity and insufficiently addressed needs,” ACT’s statement read.

The group’s five-point demand is as follows: (1) employ a comprehensive medical and socioeconomic response to the crisis, (2) fund and establish health and safety measures at the school level, (3) ensure access to quality education, (4) protect education workers’ labor rights and grant necessary benefits and (5) conduct democratic consultations with teachers, parents and learners.

Among the school-level safety measures in ACT’s call were free mass testing for education workers and learners with parental consent, social-distanced classroom learning and the distribution of hygiene kits, among others.

Deped announced on May 5 that classes would open on Aug. 24, whether face-to-face or online.

“DepEd Sec. Leonor Briones’ pep talk on fighting fears and teaching our students courage does not assuage our apprehensions as they are based on our rational assessment of the country’s present condition,” the statement read.

ACT also called on the government to address the economic problems of private schools amid the pandemic.

“No aid program is being implemented to cushion the economic hardships of many private school teachers who have lost income since March. Enrollment in private schools is expected to dwindle by 2 million in the coming school year, which will result to the closing down of private schools and retrenchment of hapless teachers and employees,” the statement said. John Ezekiel J. Hirro