A group of teachers and other education workers on Tuesday, Sept. 14, decried the “budget cut” in the education sector as the country continues to grapple with the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
During the deliberation on the proposed P589.2-billion budget for the Department of Education (DepEd) for 2022 at the House of Representatives, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines observed a budget cut of more than half or 51.18 percent — from P11.1-B in 2021 to P5.4-B in the 2022 National Expenditure Program (NEP) — in the provision for basic education facilities, from which only P358-M was allotted for school health facilities.
“It was also unclear if the hiring of school nurses will be funded in the proposal, but the group says this is an important part of ensuring school safety amidst the onslaught of COVID-19,” ACT said.
Meanwhile, the group also pointed out the resource provision for distance learning modalities remains lacking in the 2022 NEP.
DepEd formally opened the School Year (SY) 2021-2022 on Sept. 13 under a distance/blended learning scheme since President Duterte has yet to allow the pilot implementation of face-to-face classes in low risk areas.
ACT cited that two of the previous sources of funds for the production of modules will “not get a significant increase” despite persisting reports of shortages resulting in as much as a 1:5 student to module ratio in certain areas and schools turning to loans to cover the costs of such production.
The group also expressed concern that the provisions for flexible learning options will suffer a slash of P1.4-B or 8.43 percent while there was “zero increase” for textbook and other instructional materials at P963.3 million.
ACT said that another program that aids in accessibility of some of the most underprivileged students will suffer a big cut—the indigenous people’s education program (IPED), which will decrease by P107.6 million or 67.64 percent in this year’s proposal.
Likewise, the group lamented that its call for P1,500 internet allowance and internet expense subsidy for students “were also not reflected in the proposed budget.”
ACT said that there were also no “clear allotments for laptops and gadgets” which are basic necessities for remote learning which is being implemented for the second time this school year due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation in the country.
“It seems the government has learned nothing from the disaster that was last school year, or it simply doesn’t care that so many of us are suffering under the tremendous weight of the onerous distance learning,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said.
Basilio said that right of millions of youth to accessible quality education has been “sacrificed for too long now” as well as the welfare of teachers which is “sorely neglected” because the Duterte administration has “turned its back” on its mandate on education.
“The costs of such abandonment is far too high, not only for us but for the entire nation,” Basilio warned.
Given this, ACT is calling for bigger funding for the education sector in order to cover its needs especially amidst the pandemic.