The nation’s teachers have been among the many sectors of the population that have suffered most from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
When the lockdowns began in March, with the strictest Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECW) in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon, schools were closed down along with offices and businesses of all kinds. This posed a big problem to students, especially those who were due to graduate in April. It also upended the lives of the teachers who suddenly found themselves with no work and no income as schools were closed down all over the country.
With the P165.5-billion Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which President Duterte has just signed into law, the nation’s teachers along with non-teaching personnel in private and public elementary, secondary, and tertiary educational institutions are to receive a one-time aid out of a P300-million fund in the Bayanihan law.
The law also provides assistance for several other sectors – cash and food assistance to low-income households, hazard pay and risk allowances for healthcare workers, assistance to displaced public utility drivers, cash and loan subsidies for farmers and fisher folk, cash and medical assistance for overseas Filipinos, and funds for shipping home the remains of COVID victims.
Now that the government has begun to ease the restrictions, Metro Manila is now under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and should soon be under the more lenient Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) by October. There is hope that by December, we will be “near-normal.”
It has been a difficult and exhausting year for all, but we have managed to survive with much fewer infections and deaths than some countries like the United States, Brazil, Russia, Italy, Spain, Britain, and India. The economic losses have been tremendous and it will take time for us to recover from them. But we have survived, with the most vulnerable among us, including the poorest families, receiving monetary aid.
Government aid hasn’t been available to all who need it, but we are glad that our teachers have been among those who have received special attention in the Bayanihan Act and other assistance and stimulus programs of the government.
The pandemic has upset all previous planning of the government for various areas of the national life. There were plans for government salary increases righat the start of the new administration, with the nation’s uniformed services getting theirs at the start of 2019. The President had then assured the nation’s teachers: “Kayo na ang susunod.”
Many of the government’s plans, including salary adjustments, will have to be put on hold. But the special aid to the neediest displaced sectors, including the nation’s teachers, in the Bayanihan Law is most welcome and appreciated.