Teachers’ group seeks bigger education budget for 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to expose the “weaknesses” of the country’s education system, a federation of teachers are calling for bigger funding for education as well as other social services in the 2021 national budget.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines is urging the Congress to allocate bigger funding for education for next year. “The pandemic fully exposed the weaknesses of our education system, as well as of other social institutions, caused largely by year after year of insufficient funding,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said.

Basilio explained that a bigger allocation for education in the 20201national budget “will not only help us get back to our feet, but also pave the way for a truly ‘better normal’ for the Filipino people and the nation as a whole.”

ACT emphasized that the public education system “has long been plagued by perennial shortages” which has been “drastically aggravated by the shift to remote learning in light of the health situation.” Without considerable resources, the group expressed fear that millions of students and teachers alike will be further disenfranchised and endangered.

“Even before the pandemic, education had already been facing challenges with access and quality,” Basilio said. He noted that with the “poorly funded” remote learning plans of the Department of Education (DepEd), at least four million students are at “risk of being left behind while the rest are set to endure diminished learning quality” this school year.

“These alone are grave injustices to the youth. No amount of making up by teachers will suffice, especially with the weakening of our ranks due to COVID-19 infection,” Basilio said. To address these serious problems, ACT emphasized the need for significant budget increase for education to warrant the provision of learning needs and the granting of health benefits and protection to education frontliners.

Likewise, ACT demanded the establishment of safe schools that are both resilient and responsive to disease outbreaks such as the pandemic the country is currently facing.

To ensure the youth’s right to education, ACT called on the Congress to fund the provision of gadgets, self-learning modules, and other tech infrastructure for distance learning. The group insisted that “all teachers and indigent learners” must be issued laptops/tablets and internet allowance of at least P1,500/month.

“Being frontliners, it’s only just that the government fully subsidize COVID-19 testing and treatment of education workers, while teachers should also be finally granted sick leave benefit,” Basilio said. He also added the need to ensure school safety by addressing age old shortages in sanitation facilities and personnel, and providing clinics and nurses in every school.