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VP Sara fights for learners’ safe spaces versus abuse and exploitation

As the Department of Education (DepEd) unveiled its learner rights and protection office, website, and telesafe contact helpline on Thursday, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte argued for a strengthened child safety program across the nation.

In a speech, Duterte said that this was the agency’s presence to students, ensuring their safety and giving them access to a complaint outlet.

We’re introducing you to the Learner Rights and Protection Office website and a national hotline that will let us get student complaints about child protection by landline, email, and messages on our Facebook page. The Learners Telesafe Contact Center Helpline is the name of the helpline, she explained.

Duterte claimed that safeguarding children from abuse and exploitation has long been a cause dear to her heart, particularly as it was one of the demoralizing difficulties she had to deal with as mayor of Davao City.

She did, however, point out that children might benefit from safe spaces with the right policy interventions, complaint procedures, promotion, and response, similar to what they did in Davao City.

“Napakadali na mag-set ng mga approaches to solve the problems and challenges kung bakit tayo nakakatulong sa mga bata nangangailangan ng tulong,” the speaker said. As a result, I told CPU that since we were not aware of it, “Kaya tayo nagugulat nalang sa balita.” “It’s so simple to set ways to solve the difficulties and challenges, as to why we can’t rescue the children in need…,” (It’s so easy to create ways to solve the problems and challenges, as to why we can’t rescue the children in need… I said that we are astonished because we were taken off guard. In order for us to know how to assist and for the child to realize that they are a victim of abuse, exploitation, and violence, we need them to inform us of the issue, she said.

The iceberg’s tip

Duterte acknowledged that accusations of mistreatment against students are always coming in for the school sector alone.

“When I took on my position as the DepEd Secretary in June of this year, I had to deal with sad and terrible stories about students being victims of sexual abuse in addition to thinking of answers to the problems that had plagued the department for years,” she said.

According to DepEd data as of October, there had been close to 2,000 incidences of child maltreatment documented prior to the outbreak of the worldwide pandemic.

The Learner Rights and Protection Office of the Department of Education reported 1,871 occurrences of child abuse between 2019 and 2020. However, given that ten regions have yet to file their reports, the data merely represents the tip of the iceberg, according to Duterte.

She still has faith that the industry will address this through increased efforts, though.

“This is something that the entire nation and the Department of Education want to alter. I’m glad that DepEd is moving on with the effort to put a stop to sexual assault and violence in schools, she said.

In the meantime, Duterte reaffirmed that some of the allegations of sexual assault and sexual grooming are currently being investigated.

In addition, to equip the school’s child protection specialists, the DepEd developed a specialization course for child protection for its focal person.

“DepEd will also instruct our students on how to deal with safety risks, who to contact when they occur, and how to react to them. She continued, “The Learners TeleSafe Contact Center Helpline will also address the worries of child abuse victims, such as a potential backlash, victim shaming, or severe physical punishment.

Duterte advised students and instructors with grievances to contact their telesafe helpline at (02) 8637-2396, (02) 8632-1372, and 09451759777 or via email at weprotectlearners@deped.gov.ph.

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