Due to “severely lacking” state support, a group of education workers warned on Monday, May 17, that the Philippines’ education system is on the “brink of collapse” if the challenges faced by schools, teachers and learners remain unaddressed.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines issued this warning as the session in Congress resumed. Holding a protest outside its gates in Quezon City, the group pressed legislators to allocate bigger funds to address “massive gaps” in distance learning as Congress deliberates the biggest Bayanihan bill yet at P405.6 billion.
ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said that the country’s education system is on the brink of collapsing with “teachers and staff who serve as its backbone are falling ill, burning out, and running out of personal resources to fill in the gaps in distance learning.”
Given this, Basilio said that the Congress should make up for the failures of the first two Bayanihans and the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA) by including education in its top funding priorities for Bayanihan 3.
“Failing to support the education sector amid the pandemic will come at grave costs paid by education workers, students, and even their families but this need not be the case any further,” Basilio said.
“Our duly-elected lawmakers are hereby challenged again to prove that they’re worth the people’s votes by fulfilling their duty to ensure quality education is safe and accessible to all,” he added.
Basilio claimed that the first Bayanihan did not give funding to education while the second, only provided around P4 billion. Meanwhile, he noted that the substitute bill for Bayanihan 3 – which is up for Committee approval before submission to the plenary – allocated a “paltry” P5.6 billion to distance learning needs.
“This amount hardly covers the basic requisites of distance learning—gadgets, internet allowances, printed modules, and community teachers,” Basilio said.
Citing its own estimate, ACT said that the in order to cover the requisites of distance learning implemented by the Department of Education (DepEd), at least P98.5 billion is need.
“An additional P14.68 billion is needed to prepare for face-to-face classes in low-risk areas, and P7.2 billion to give due protection and health benefits to education frontliners,” Basilio added.
Basilio said that ACT computations show that the DepEd needs a total of P120.38 billion in supplemental budget to “amply fund the needs of education” amid the pandemic.
ACT expressed fears that without sufficient budget, more teachers and learners alike will fall from being overburdened with distance learning.