Teachers lament late release of funds, depletion of funds for production of self-learning modules

School heads from various regions nationwide are lamenting the late release of funds from the Department of Education (DepEd) Central Office and the depletion of school funds for the mass production of self-learning modules (SLMs) which are needed for blended and distance learning this upcoming school year. 

Citing reports from the ground, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines said that many school heads are having a difficult utime allocating funds to fulfill the requirements of DepEd’s Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP).

“Teachers aren’t the only ones strained by DepEd’s stubborn but poorly-backed school opening plans,” said ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio. “Even the principals are complaining where to get funds for the school expenses related to the LCP,” he added.

Basilio explained that the School Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) is the regular government funding for schools, computed based on the school’s teacher and student population, that covers expenses for utilities, supplies, equipment, repairs, and the like.

In light of the pandemic, Basilio said that DepEd has ordered schools to charge to their MOOE the health and sanitation supplies needed such as Personal protective equipment (PPEs), alcohol, disinfectant, foot bath, and others, supplemented by collections from “Brigada Eskwela.” 

However, Basilio noted that with the “late release of central funding,” DepEd identified the school MOOE as a major fund source for module reproduction. “The central office only released funds and utilization guidelines for module reproduction in the latter half of July,” he added.

DepEd Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla had earlier confirmed that at least P9 billion was downloaded to regions and school division offices for LCP-related expenses such as module reproduction.

ACT, on the other hand, said that many school heads have “attested” that the downloaded funds from the central office have not yet reached the school level. 

“Given the stringent procurement rules and lengthy processes, these funds cannot deliver the needed modules any day earlier than October,” Basilio said. “As such, schools were ordered yet again, to use their MOOE for module production, supported by other secondary sources."

Basilio also stressed that school MOOE “in no way” can cover sufficiently the module reproduction expenses as its actual amount is way lower than the reproduction cost. For instance, ACT received a report from a high school in Bacolod City with 2020 MOOE of P 4.5 million but needs P5.5 million to reproduce the needed modules just for the first quarter of the school year.

Likewise, a major division in the National Capital Region (NCR) puts module printing expenses at an average of P458 per student for the first quarter of the school year but the annual school MOOE only contains an allotment of P200 per elementary pupil and P400 per high school student.

“The stress and pressure our school heads are experiencing right now is yet another substantial proof that we’re not ready to open schools,” Basilio said. With the school Aug. 24 school opening postponed, ACT urged DepEd to look at the “very quantifiable, concrete, and verifiable on the ground.”

Weeks before the new school opening date scheduled on Oct. 5, ACT said that DepEd would ensure a 1:1 module set to pupil ratio would be ready for distribution as well as laptop provision and Internet subsidy for teachers and students. The agency should also provide health screening and PPEs for teachers and medical funds for free treatment if they get infected by COVID-19.

With the additional time given to DepEd, ACT urged the agency to ensure that its preparations will pave the way for a safe, accessible, and quality education. Otherwise, ACT said that DepEd should consider implementing an alternative, relevant learning continuity program without the rigid processes and standards demanded by a formal school year.