By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) on Monday called out a representative of a teachers group for misleading teachers and the general public by taking credit for its initiatives while portraying the agency as “not doing anything” about the challenges in the basic education sector of the country.
DepEd clarified that even before the faculty room incident in Cavite school went viral, a funding request and proposal for the construction of administration buildings have been in the works.
“To set the record straight, DepEd underscores that its funding request for the construction of administration buildings was based on its awareness of the needs on the ground,” the agency said.
In this year’s school opening, one of the “shortages” that were highlighted – aside from the usual challenges in the basic education inputs such as classrooms, among others – is the lack of faculty rooms in public schools.
Maricel Herrera, a teacher in Bacoor National High School, took to social media her complaints on the lack of faculty rooms for teachers which “forced” them to convert unused restrooms instead.
Initially, DepEd said that this was an isolated case. However, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines received reports and photos from other teachers in public schools who have been using converted comfort rooms as faculty rooms for years now.
In particular, DepEd called out social media posts made by ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio. In his June 8 posts, DepEd said that the group’s official “claimed that it was their actions that prompted” agency to “include the construction of administration buildings in its 2020 budget proposal.”
DepEd explained that prior to the faculty room incident in Bacoor which resulted in the protests of ACT, it has “already presented and defended its 2020 Tier 2 proposal to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM)” last May 21.
“Included in the proposal was DepEd’s request for P24.98 billion to enable the construction of the initial batch of administration buildings, which will house the principal’s office, faculty room, guidance room, library, and school supplies and equipment storage during calamities,” DepEd said. “The preparation for the proposal came much earlier,” it added.
Contrary to ACT’s claims, DepEd said its request is “due to the fact” that the agency’s Basic Education Facilities Fund (BEFF) “historically prioritized the construction and rehabilitation” of classrooms. “DepEd is prepared to construct the said faculty rooms and other ancillary facilities when the national budget authorizes it,” the agency explained.
DepEd urged ACT’s Basilio to “stop misleading our teachers and the public by claiming credit” for the agency’s initiative while “portraying that the Department is not doing anything about the challenges in the education sector.”
Basilio questioned “how convenient” it is for DepEd to claim that it was first in the initiative to build administration buildings that will house faculty rooms when it said that proposal was presented one week earlier than Herrera’s “exposé.”
Basilio stressed that teachers who spoke about CR-turned-faculty rooms after Herrera’s exposé said that “they have been in the same situation for years already and have actually spent a lot in the renovation to make themselves comfortable.” He added that if DepEd claims that it is well abreast of the facility shortages in public education, “why then would the [DepEd] Secretary call the Bacoor issue as isolated?”
“DepEd should release publicly its comprehensive assessment of the infrastructure and facility situation in public schools, if any, so that teachers would know if their needs were considered,” Basilio said. He added that it is “unbecoming for DepEd to make an issue about credits” since “it’s their mandate to provide the needs of public education in the first place.”