The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has urged Congress to revisit the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers under Republic Act No. 4670 to make it more responsive to the needs of the law’s beneficiaries amidst the difficulties spawned by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
It said the roles of teachers during a pandemic should be emphasized in RA 4670 as well as the inclusion of policies responsive to emergencies and health crises.
“Revisiting the law can be a crucial strategy in updating outdated provisions and in addressing implementation issues,” it stressed.
It explained that its plea was based on results of a study conducted among public school teachers in Mangaldan, Pangasinan.
In its policy brief entitled, “The Rights of Public School Teachers in Mangaldan, Pangasinan During the Pandemic: Status, Challenges, and Recommendations,” the CHR said that the sudden shift from face-to-face traditional learning to remote learning has raised crucial economic and social issues.
The CHR said the policy brief collected the viewpoints and experiences of the teachers from two public schools in Mangaldan. It was found that the teachers were unready to adapt to the sudden remote learning shift, and many were forced to look for alternative methods, it said.
Because there is “ambiguity” about the workload and scope of involvement of teachers, the CHR said these teachers had “to use tools and platforms that they are not prepared to use nor trained on.”
“Teachers were left with no choice but to continue some of their regular undertakings during the pandemic, to the point of putting themselves at risk of acquiring the deadly virus just to ensure that the modules and learning materials reach the students,” it said.
It lamented that despite the additional workload and risk, the teachers were not protected by the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers nor given additional compensation for additional services rendered.
It pointed out that RA 4670 provides that “any teacher engaged in actual classroom instruction shall not be required to render more than six hours of actual classroom teaching a day.”
Should they engage in any other activities outside of normal duties, he law provides that “any teacher shall be paid an additional compensation of at least twenty-five percent of his regular remuneration after the teacher has completed at least six hours of actual classroom teaching a day,” it said.
“In areas in which teachers are exposed to hardship such as difficulty in commuting to the place of work or other hazards peculiar to the place of employment, as determined by the Secretary of Education, they shall be compensated special hardship allowances equivalent to at least twenty-five percent of their monthly salary,” it added.
It pointed out that the teachers admitted that the provisions of RA 4670 were not fully implemented even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
It added that the teachers “strongly disagreed” that they received additional health-related benefits despite their high exposure to risks. While the government made medical examinations compulsory, the teachers said these were not provided free of charge, the CHR emphasized quoting the teachers.