Group slams DepEd ‘unwillingness’ to protect teachers amid COVID-19 threat

A teachers’ group on Tuesday called out the Department of Education (DepEd) for claiming “readiness” for school opening on August 24 while refusing to implement initiatives that will ensure the safety and health of its personnel.

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), a 30,000-strong group, said that while DepEd reiterates that the system is ready for the opening of classes for school year (SY) 2020-2021, it continues to “ignore calls from all quarters that the situation in the field” proves otherwise. 

“The DepEd seems so fixated with their belief that the only way to deliver education during this pandemic is through a formal opening of classes that they do not hear the clamor to fix the problems first,” said TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas. 

“The non-access to internet facilities for many of our families and the non-reliability of connection for those who have it,” he added.

Less than two weeks before the scheduled opening, Basas alleged that the plan for TV and radio-based instructions “remains a plan” and the modules - which will be the main form of learning - “are yet to be delivered.” In some cases, he noted that teachers are asking for donations to buy materials or spend their own money just to “make things possible.” 

What TDC found most alarming is the “unresponsiveness” of DepEd on their concerns - especially those that are related to teachers.

“The most striking message for us teachers is the fact that the DepEd has no plan to save us from the deadly disease,” Basas said.

Last week, TDC formally asked DepEd the extent of COVID-19 infection in the agency so far and what will be the available form of assistance for teachers and personnel infected with the virus.

TDC also asked the DepEd leadership on how it will deal with the field officials who require their teachers and personnel to report physically despite the work from home default set-up under its own rules.

“Up to now, we have not heard any reply from the DepEd in any of these questions,” Basas said. “They, however, stated in the media that there is no money for treatment of teachers if ever they contract the disease, a statement that further made our teachers anxious.” 

Given this, TDC urged DepEd to “reflect” on its plans and statements. 
He said, “If they can never assure that they will care for the teachers, how could they assure that the system is ready?” 

Basas cited the case of TDC NCR president Ildefonso “Nono” Enguerra III of Roxas High School in Manila who tested positive for COVID-19 in July. 
"The DepEd, unfortunately did not provide help - financially or in any form - aside from the promised voluntary personal contributions from some officials,” Basas said. 

TDC also urged DepEd to release an official data of personnel with COVID-19 to help teachers analyze the situation and take necessary steps such as allocation of supplemental budget or a policy change - among others. 
“This too will be necessary when we seek for the accountability of DepEd officials- both from the field and from the Central Office,” Basas ended.