Dubbed as “education frontliners” during the pandemic, teachers on Tuesday, Oct. 5, urged the government to ensure their safety, rights and well-being while they continue with their tasks in the new normal.
E-Net Philippines on Tuesday, Oct. 5, held an online press conference in time for the celebration of the 2021 World Teachers’ Day (WTD).
“On World Teachers’ Day, E-Net Philippines reiterates upon the National Government, through the Department of Education (DepEd), of its duty to create a strong enabling learning environment, through effective and promising policy responses, to support and strengthen the critical roles teachers play in the COVID-19 response and recovery,” said E-Net President Flora Arellano.
“We salute all teachers but we need to act now in order to save our education frontliners,” Arellano added.
The participants discussed issues related to the teachers and the challenges they face under the new learning set-up brought about by the pandemic.
Fidel Fababier from the Action and Solidarity for the Empowerment of Teachers (ASSERT) tackled the health of teachers, especially those who exposed to COVID-19.
Fababier shared that teachers are infected because they were made to report to schools by their principals to distribute modules.
“Some have infected their families and these teachers are suffering, mental and emotionally; and the financial burden is also a problem,” he said.
Fababier noted that these “cases are not reported” and that DepEd has yet to check on the teachers and non-teaching personnel affected by COVID-19.
Principals and school superintendents, he added, are also not reporting on this. “They are mum on the issue because they do not want to be blamed for the problem they created by forcing teachers to report to school,” Fababier said. “While medical benefits are not extended to those teachers who need it,” he added.
Fababier lamented that amid all the problems faced by teachers, it seems that the government is keen on addressing their concerns. In addition, he noted that “teachers are not even a priority” in the vaccination program against COVID-19.
“We feel neglected,” Fababier said. “DepEd is Deaf-ed to us,” he added. Fababier also pointed out that around 900,000 public school teachers are entitled to P6,000 pesos monthly special hardship allowance for one year of pandemic. However, the DepEd and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) “have yet to release these to teachers” going into the second year of the pandemic.
Citing a Commission on Audit (COA) report, Fababier pointed DepEd regional offices received a total of P11.9 billion for the distance learning program but the use of over P8 billion in the budget were marked by “deficiencies.”
“We need to check on this controversy,” Fababier said. “This misuse and/or unused fund might be bigger than that of the Pharmally issue,” he added.
Save private schools, too
Meanwhile, Dr. Joseph Jovellanos of Samahang Manggagawang Pilipino – National Alliance of Teachers and Workers (SMP-NATOW) pointed out that around 300,000 private school teachers and personnel are affected by the pandemic.
“Many have lost their jobs due to school closures of private, community schools,” said SMP-NATOW which is a federation of private school teachers and office workers in the Philippines. “Kawawa ang kondisyon ating mga educational frontliners,” Jovellanos added.
Full implementation of Magna Carta
For teacher Serafin Molina from the group Teachers Inc., teachers are hardworking, resourceful and dedicated to jobs because they love their students and the teaching profession.
“Please reciprocate our love by returning love and care for us education frontliners,” Molina said.
In order to address the concerns of teachers, Molina called for the full implementation of the provisions in the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers which was created 55 years ago.
To will seek the DepEd’s immediate response and action on the concerns and demands of teachers, E-Net Philippines said it has a scheduled dialogue with Education Secretary Leonor Briones this week.