Citing several pressing school opening concerns, a teachers group has called top officials of the Department of Education (DepEd) to visit public schools in the country to see the “real situation” before classes formally open on Oct. 5.
The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) with 30,000 members, said that top managers of DepEd — especially those in the Central Office — should visit the schools to have a better understanding on the readiness of the public education system to resume classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas said that DepEd top officials should go to the public schools themselves and “never depend on the online reports submitted to them by some field officials who are likely to hide the awful realities.”
TDC also called on all the concerned government agencies to guarantee the welfare of public school teachers to ensure a successful resumption of classes next month or “consider another postponement.”
TDC said it has sent a formal letter to legislators and several offices that are tasked to implement the COVID-19 response — including Malacañang, the Office of the Vice President, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
In a five-page document entitled “Notes and Recommendations from Teachers on the Resumption of Classes for School Year 2020-2021,” TDC enumerated nine issues and recommendations ranging from health benefits to provision of gadgets and Internet connectivity as well as assistance to private schools, reduction of workloads, to the possible adjustment of school calendar.
“Should the DepEd yet again fail to address these concerns, while dark clouds remain above us and our children, immediate consideration for postponement of class opening to January 2021 will inevitably be sought,” Basas said.
TDC explained that it has gathered the information from a series of consultations, online meetings, and informal surveys from their leaders and members in the field.
“Represented here are classroom teachers, principals, and supervisors from all the regions,” Basas said and assured that “claims made reflect the general sentiments of our teachers.” Basas noted that the TDC has been advocating for a January, 2021, class opening even before the August 24 school opening was deferred to October 5.
Despite this, he said, TDC does not necessarily oppose the October 5 school opening announced by DepEd.
“We do appreciate this slight adjustment, but security and safety of teachers and learners are serious issues yet to be properly addressed by the DepEd, especially that the state of health emergency has been extended by the President for another year,” Basas said.
TDC also pointed out some recurring concerns coming from the teachers.
“Almost a million teachers who are in charge of serving 24 million learners will be forced to physically interact with parents and other stakeholders at some levels and this is a health and safety nightmare that brings chills to the spines of the sane because people would take public transportation vehicles, move thousands of modules back and forth, and at some point will have to do face-to-face meetings as online infrastructures prove frighteningly inadequate,” Basas noted.
Basas said that the TDC continues to seek dialogues and forge partnerships and is “very much eager” to collaborate with the DepEd.
Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros said many teachers have expressed concern over the inequitable response of the government to their basic needs.
Hontiveros underscored the necessity of institutionalizing the implementation of RA 4670, the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, as a response to the unequal government support provided to teachers.
“We need to care for our teachers’ wellbeing. We have a long way to go in our fight against COVID-19, that’s why we need sufficient funds to ensure the continuity of education of our children,” Hontiveros said in Pilipino.
“The Magna Carta for Public School Teachers is meant to give our teachers protection like medical benefits and hazard pay,” she said.
The senator also appealed for a more institutional approach to ensure that there is funding earmarked for the implementation of the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers.
“Umaaray ang ating mga guro. Kulang na kulang ang suporta lalo na yung mga naka-assign sa mga pinakamahihirap na munisipyo na walang kakayahan ang LGU at mga pribadong indibwal na sagutin ang kanilang pangangailangan (Our teachers are having a hard time. They lack support, especially those who are assigned to the poorest municipalities where the local government units (LGUs) and private individuals do not have the capability to respond to their needs),” she added.
Citing DepEd’s data, Hontiveros said more than half of the basic education students or at least 13 million students prefer the modular learning modality.
But this means public school teachers will face an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 since they are required to distribute and retrieve self-learning modules (SLMs) from the communities themselves.
That is why, she said, it is imperative that the government subsidize these printing of materials and help teachers acquire their own laptops and other equipment and materials necessary for them to adjust to distance teaching.
She said an Internet “allowance” is now one of the most crucial ingredients to a successful education under the new normal.
“For our teachers to properly adapt, they would need proper access to all necessary technology,” she said. (With a report from Hannah L. Torregoza)