The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has ordered the suspension of field trips and educational tours following the death on Monday of 13 students of Bestlink College in a road accident in Tanay, Rizal.
The suspension order came after CHED commissioner Prospero de Vera filed a request at the en banc on Tuesday to issue a moratorium on field trips and educational tours.
According to a statement from the commission, de Vera said the moratorium will allow the commission to investigate the tragedy and review current policies on field trips.
Educational tours are regulated by CHED Memorandum Order No. 17, which also requires colleges and universities to inform the CHED regional office of such trips a month before they are held.
“While it is true that field trips are essential to give students the opportunity to see and explore new things, enhance their learning experience in a natural setting, and provide for interest-driven and hands-on training, the safety of the students on field trips must be ensured at all times by school authorities,” de Vera said.
CHED ordered the officials of Bestlink College to submit an incident report immediately, which would help determine whether its regulations were violated.
“We will expedite the necessary investigation to determine if proper procedures were observed by school authorities, impose the necessary sanctions, if warranted, and determine whether existing policies adequately protect the safety of students,” the commissioner said.
De Vera also slammed the college for continuing the activity despite the tragedy.
Bleak future for some injured students
Some of the injured students are still undergoing observation at the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center in Marikina City due to serious injuries they sustained from the accident.
Even though they survived, their future in terms of employment looks bleak.
The 24-year-old Mark Barcelona, who is conscious but unable to speak, lost his left eye and a part of his brain was missing after his skull got fractured.
The orphan Ariel Vergara was paralyzed from the waist down. When he met the accident, he was juggling his work as a sales assistant and his studies at the same time, being the eldest of three siblings. At first, he said he didn’t want to join the camp training but was required by his professors as part of the school’s National Service Training Program (NSTP).
According to CHED, Bestlink’s activity falls under the NSTP but to threaten a student with an incomplete grade if he doesn’t join the activity is not right.
CHED commissioner De Vera said that even if there was a signed waiver, it does not absolve the universities completely of any liability. (K. Imson, TV5, Interaksyon)