Braving the heavy downpour, members of a teachers’ group on Wednesday, July 21, held a picket-protest at the Department of Education (DepEd) in Pasig City to give President Duterte and Education Secretary Leonor Briones the “Kalabasa (squash) Award” for allegedly causing the “worst education crisis” in the country.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines hit the Duterte-Briones tandem for their “poor performance” which allegedly caused a “serious backslide” in education access and quality while teachers’ salaries, benefits and rights were “grossly neglected and violated.”
ACT NCR Union President Vladimer Quetua lamented the “miserable” state of education noting the 1.1 million students who were unenrolled in the past school year that added up to 3.5 million out-of-school youth before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Quetua stressed the gravity of the learning crisis under the distance learning wherein about “four to six in every 10 students lagged behind” according to the survey of the Movement for Safe, Equitable, Quality and Relevant Education.
ACT also slammed the Duterte government for being the “worst” when it comes addressing the welfare of education workers.
The group continues to demand accountability for Duterte’s “failed promise” to double the salaries of teachers as well as his government’s failures to grant timely and adequate benefits such as overtime pay, the Service Recognition Incentive (SRI), Performance-Based Bonus (PBB), monthly communication expenses reimbursement, and monthly internet allowance, despite the urgent need of education workers for economic assistance and support to distance learning during the pandemic.
“Teachers work very hard to deliver education, we always go beyond what is asked of us because we know the value of our service,” Quetua said. “The least Duterte and Briones can do is pay us right, ensure we can afford decent standards of living [and] grant us our benefits,” he added.
The group also pointed out threats to job security was also an issue under Duterte as more than 1,600 Senior High School (SHS) teachers who were hired on probationary status were faced with uncertainty nearing the expiration of their appointments as the pandemic hindered them from taking the Licensure Exam for Professional Teachers (LEPT).
ACT also raised the “multiple attacks and vilification” faced by teachers’ unions in the past months with the continuous red-tagging through the DepEd-sponsored National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) seminars, as well as the multiple surveillance and verification of suspicious state agents to union leaders and members.
Given all these, Quetua said that Duterte and Briones both deserve to receive “failing marks” and the “Kalabasa Award” from teachers.
In the Filipino culture, the “Kalabasa Award” refers to a figurative “prize of shame” given to those who performed poorly.
Meanwhile, Quetua announced that education workers will march alongside many sectors to protest on the day of Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 26.