Groups say all teachers ‘deserve urgent support’ from gov’t amid COVID-19 crisis

Published June 4, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot 

Groups on Wednesday, June 3, reiterated that all teachers, whether they are from public or private schools, deserve urgent support from the government as various sectors and industries continue to grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19.

“There should be no dichotomy in the plight of teachers at this time of pandemic. All teachers in public and private schools deserve urgent government support,” said The Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) Managing Director Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada.

Estrada lamented that the “image of the teacher as poor, buried in debt, and left with no provisions, is simply reprehensible.” Thus, urgent support should be provided to them even if they belong to different sectors. “Teachers, like all other professionals deserve to live a life of dignity, respect, and decent compensation,” he added.

COCOPEA serves as the unifying voice of private education in the Philippines. It 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).

Estrada also called on the government for support on behalf of school personnel, especially in private schools since they have not been able to get the financial support from the government since the COVID-19 crisis hit the country. In particular, COCOPEA appeals to legislators to include the education sector in the government’s economic stimulus package since it is one of the “hardest hit” by the pandemic.

Support for private school teachers

Various groups also expressed their support to legislators for including private school teachers to the recipients of government financial help under SB 1564 or the “Bayanihan to Recover As One Act.”

Sectoral group Ating Guro Partylist said this will be a big boost for many private school teachers since most of them “were not given any cash aid” either by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) or Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Ating Guro Partylist secretary-general Juanito Dona, Jr., who is also a grade school teacher from St. Scholastica’s College, said that while their public school counterparts are “continuously receiving salaries” during the community quarantine months, many private school teachers, who comprise the other half of the country’s education work force, were “seemingly left behind.”

“Unfortunately, most private schools do not have the capacity to subsidize the salaries of their teachers since they are dependent to tuition and other fees from their clients,” Dona said.

Dona also underscored the fact that while the Department of Education (DepEd) and Malacanang have finally decided to formally open schools on August 24, the fate of hundreds of thousands of private school employees who employed under ‘no work, no pay’ scheme “is still hanging and that uncertainty causes anxiety and serious concerns among them.”

Citing data from a survey conducted by Federation of Associations of Private Schools Administrators (FAPSA), Dona noted that initially, there are 119, 819 private school teachers affected by the pandemic. This figure, he explained, is “just a part of an estimated 263, 000 teachers and employees hired by private schools.”

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) welcomed the move of the legislature to help private school teachers. The group also expressed hope that all the affected personnel would receive the “needed help during this critical and trying times.”

Appeal to school owners, lawmakers

While they welcome the support for private school teachers, Ating Guro Partylist and TDC appealed to school owners to “observe the standards set by law” when it comes to their employees.

TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas alleged that the COVID-19 crisis has “exposed the evil scheme used in hiring teachers as well as their conditions.” The practice of contractualization, he noted, has been “rampant in schools run by private businesses.”

“Teachers do not enjoy the right to job security and the right to self-organization,” Basas said. “In some cases, even the minimum wage policy is not complied,” he noted, adding that in some particular cases, “teachers in private schools were hired through a third party like an employment agency.”

While TDC appreciates the contributions of private educational institutions to the education sector, the 30,000-strong group also urged the school owners “to religiously observe the standards set by law and treat their teachers with dignity.”

For Dona, the SB 1564 will also “rectify the errors” allegedly committed against private school employees. He noted that “while there was no exemption to teachers and academic workers in private schools from getting assistance packages,” most of them did not receive any cash aid from government agencies.

Under the proposed law, private school teachers and personnel will receive cash assistance amounting to P5,000 to P8, 000 depending on the prevailing minimum wage in their respective regions. “We welcome this one-time assistance but we urge the Congress to enact a specific law that would ensure the protection of rights and welfare of our teachers and workers in the private education system,” Dona ended.