As National Teacher’s Month culminates with the celebration of World Teacher’s Day on October 5th, the Educators’ Forum for Development (EfD) urges the Duterte administration to deliver all necessary support to public and private Filipino educators in the basic and higher education sectors.
Educators play an important role in teaching future generations to become society builders. They are now challenged – even burdened – to uphold this role however amid a raging pandemic that has prompted schools to implement distance learning. Over 700 private schools have been unable to cope and have had to suspend operations. More than 100,000 private school teachers and employees have reportedly been retrenched because of low enrolment rates.
The Department of Education (DepEd) must acknowledge the threat posed by the pandemic on the physical and mental health of teachers and other school personnel, as well as the impact of the economic crisis on their livelihood.
Six months into the quarantine period however, no clear guidelines have been drawn as to how education would continue with the entire education sector’s safety ensured. Private schools have already begun online classes as early as July, while public schools are opening the school year on October 5.
Specifically for our teachers and other education personnel, have the schools put in place the standard health infrastructure to guarantee the safety of those who will be required to report physically? Will teachers – especially in small private schools – who lost their jobs because of the pandemic – be assisted and given alternative sources of income? Were the trainings and simulations adequate to fully equip teachers for the demands of distance learning?
Various teachers’ groups themselves would answer “no” to these basic questions. Still, the DepEd has insisted that it is confidently prepared for the new school year.
But Filipino teachers won’t take such confidence from education officials if not enough is being done to secure their welfare.
If ever, the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act can only provide one-time cash assistance to teaching and non-teaching personnel of public and private schools who have lost their jobs during the quarantine. This stands in contrast to demands by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Private Schools for cash assistance of Php10,000 for three months, or a Php15,000 wage subsidy for 12 months.
The law also states the realignment of DepEd’s unused appropriations for its “Support to Schools and Learners Program”, which includes the hiring of teacher-assistants that DepEd recently said may come from the ranks of displaced private school teachers.
This is token adulation of the sacrifices of Filipino educators. Our teachers and education staff – and Philippine education in general – deserve a better response. The government can better honor their work by delivering on the sector’s long-standing demands and immediate calls. These should be integral in the overall effort to solve the country’s current health and socioeconomic woes.