By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
A teachers group on Tuesday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to issue a “clearer directive” on physical reporting in schools amid the COVID-19 situation in the country.
The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) made this appeal after receiving a report from the field that a schools division office in Region IV-A is requiring teachers – who physically report to schools – to sign a “waiver.”
TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas, in a phone interview with the Manila Bulletin, confirmed that they received a copy of the “waiver” issued by a school in Calamba City.
The said document, which should be signed by the teachers, cites that they “acknowledge the risk of becoming exposed to and/or infected by the Coronavirus/COVID-19 by reporting to work on-site” and that they acknowledge the need to “comply with all set policies and guidelines of the school to prevent and reduce the spread of virus.”
In a statement issued by the DepEd Calamba City forwarded by Undersecretary Jesus Mateo, it was explained that the said document was not a “waiver” but a “health declaration form” regardless of the title of the form.
“We reiterate that teachers should not be forced to come to school for work, as their tasks may be performed remotely from their homes,” the statement read. It added that “only those who voluntarily choose to work on-site should be present in schools.”
DepEd Calamba City, in the statement, added that teachers should not be asked to “execute a waiver but only to accomplish the health declaration form and abide by the policies and protocols designed to prevent and minimize the spread of COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, TDC CALABARZON President Richie Salubre maintained that “whether a waiver or simply a health declaration form, such kind of document is unnecessary and in fact, excessive.” The DepEd field offices or the school management, he stressed, “cannot compel the physical attendance of the teachers and be absolved of any possible liability.”
The group urged the DepEd Central Office to “look into this and similar cases in other divisions or regions.”
Salubre said that the incident, as reported to TDC, happened today, June 23 or two days after the Central Office released an instruction to regional directors to discourage the field from requiring teachers to report physically beginning June 22.
Meanwhile, DepEd Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan said that asking teachers to sign documents such as “waivers” is not part of the alternative work arrangements issued by DepEd as well as in the Health Standards to be issued this week.
The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) reiterates that health and safety of teachers is the obligation of the Department of Education (DepEd) after a public school in Laguna reportedly asked its teachers to sign a ‘waiver’ when they physically report to school amid COVID-19 crisis.