Just like how the healthcare system is overwhelmed with the surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, the country’s education system is also “under siege” as signs of burnout among education frontliners threaten learning continuity.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines on Thursday, April 29, called on the government to urgently address the “serious welfare issues” of public school teachers that “erode their capacities, health, and morale.”
Left unaddressed, the group warned that this may put education continuity in jeopardy. “Being the backbone of education delivery, the labor situation of public school teachers must be swiftly attended to and be given due consideration in the plans for the opening of the new school year,” ACT said.
ACT said that signs of teacher burn out are evident in the recent nationwide online survey it conducted among 6,731 public school teachers from March 29 to April 11.
The survey aims to “assess the labor situation of education front liners” in the first half of the school year (SY) 2020-2021.
Based on the survey results, ACT noted that more than 70 percent of teacher-respondents deem the distance learning workload as “negatively impacting on their physical and mental health” – with about 10 percent admitting to “already falling ill due to the problems with distance learning and their burdensome duties.”
Teachers are ‘overworked’
The survey of ACT noted of “extended hours of work” for public school teachers to accomplish their assigned duties.
ACT said that the eight-hour work “rule is widely violated” – with about 41 percent of teacher-respondents in the Metro Manila and 29 percent of those outside Metro Manila – said that they are “working for 9 hours to 16 hours and beyond on class days.”
“Public school teachers’ longer working hours operate within the context of the extended school year that deprived them of their rightful proportional vacation pay after serving a maximum of 220 class days in a school year,” ACT said.
ACT said that the the current school year requires teachers to render service for 297 days – from June 1, 2020 to July 10, 2021 – without a “day of leave benefits.”
Lack of sufficient support
Public school teachers, ACT said, also struggle in the current learning set-up because they do not get enough support from the government.
Based on the survey, ACT noted that the “gravely inadequate funding support from the government to distance learning as a major contributor to teachers’ dire labor conditions.”
The survey showed that only about four to six percent of teacher-respondents are using the laptops provided by the Department of Education (DepEd).
“Some 69 percent to 77 percent are using personally acquired laptops, of which 24 percent are still paying for the device,” ACT said. “Still, some 4 percent to 6 percent of teacher-respondents have no laptop to use for the performance of their duties under distance learning,” it added.
ACT noted that the government also “failed miserably in paying for the supplies and operational expenses of distance learning” as teachers shoulder the costs of internet connectivity, cellphone load, supplies for printed modules, and increased electricity consumption as they work from home.
Exposed to risk
ACT also noted that teachers are getting stressed out because they constantly fear of contracting the disease while on duty.
“The survey also revealed the reality of teachers being compelled to work outside of their homes, especially in regions outside Metro Manila, despite DepEd’s alternative work arrangement order amid the pandemic,” ACT said.
ACT noted that about 58 percent of teacher respondents from regions outside the National Capital Region (NCR) said that they “were made to report physically to schools three or more times every week” while about 44 percent were also “compelled to go to their students’ homes to deliver and retrieve printed modules.”
Despite the alarming transmission rate in Metro Manila, ACT noted that five percent of the teacher-respondents were asked to come to school three or more times in a week while “15 percent are compelled to do community/home visitation.”