By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Recognizing the plight of the private education sector amid the COVID-19 crisis, the Department of Education (DepEd) is seeking support for private school teachers who are affected by the pandemic.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in an earlier online press conference, assured that DepEd is working hard to “address the welfare concerns” of private school teachers amid the public health emergency.
Despite having their own manual of operations, Briones said private schools should also let DepEd know what is happening in their respective schools. “Now, they’re informing us about their problems and about their issues,” she said.
While DepEd recognizes the plight of private schools amid the COVID-19 crisis, Briones said that there are certain limits on how the agency can respond. “For example, the needed for assistance for the teachers, we don’t have legal basis for this,” she explained.
Given the closure and decline in revenues of private schools during the enhanced community quarantine, Briones said that the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act should also include private school teachers for their economic protection – with the aid of legislators.
“We see the Bayanihan law which will be a source [of assistance for private school teachers],” Briones explained. She also noted that DepEd has no policy allowing private schools to collect tuition and other fees in advance so they can provide for the needs of their personnel since “they’re supposed to have the capacity to be able to take care of the salaries of their teachers.”
Briones said that DepEd has already proposed to include private school teachers in the list of beneficiaries under the Bayanihan Law.
Earlier, the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) – which serves as the unifying voice of private education in the Philippines – said that many private schools on the “verge of closing down operations” due to COVID-19 disruptions.
COCOPEA Managing Director Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada said that the “revenue loss for the private education sector if school opening is pushed to August is already estimated at Php 55.2 billion [and] this estimate shoots up to 142.1 billion of revenue loss if classes do not open at all this coming school year.”
COCOPEA is composed of more than 2,500 educational institutions in the country, represented by its five (5) member-associations: Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAPSCU); Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU); Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP); Association of Christian Schools Colleges and Universities (ACSCU); and Technical Vocational Schools Association of the Philippines (TVSA).
Currently, Estrada noted that there are 409,7573 teachers, faculty and school personnel in private educational institutions all over the country. While private schools are trying their best to keep its teachers, faculty, and school personnel by paying their salaries despite their dwindling resources, he noted that many of the private schools would no longer be able to maintain their payroll beyond April 30.
“After this date, many private schools would resort to extreme measures to avoid closure such as placing school personnel on floating status without pay, non-renewal of contracts, and even retrenchment,” Estrada said.
The Federation of Associations of Private School Administrators (FAPSA) also expressed concern that private schools may lose their teachers since they are “hardly included” in any amelioration projects of the government. “These are professional teachers wallowing in poverty,” he said.
Since classes were suspended in March, FAPSA President Eleazardo Kasilag said that many teachers may not been receiving anything – especially coming from the government. “How will they survive?” he asked.
Likewise, teachers groups also called on the government – specifically DepEd – to step-in and ensure that teachers who lose their jobs amid the crisis will get assistance from the government and from their employers.
For Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), private school teachers should automatically be included in the government’s assistance programs like the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) and the DOLE’s COVID-19 Adjustment Measure Program (CAMP).
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) – Private Schools also pressed the administration and the private sector to immediately heed the right to health alongside with the socio-economic demands of academic and non-academic personnel in private schools nationwide, and of the Filipino people – in general.