While teachers are ready for the partial reopening of schools during the pilot run of limited face-to-face classes, a group urged the government to protect their welfare by giving them less non-teaching duties.
“Our teachers have been at the forefront of the call for safe school reopening and have been involved in the planning and preparation of its pilot run,” Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines Secretary General Raymond Basilio said.
“Because of this, they can very well see the gaps in the school reopening plan that weaken school safety and spell heavier burden to teachers,” he added.
The pilot implementation of limited face-to-face classes pushed through in 97 out of the 100 public schools identified by DepEd on Nov. 15.
ACT said that teachers are prepared to take on the challenges of school reopening and “curb the learning loss brought about by the government’s failed distance learning.”
However, the group demanded for key health and safety measures to ensure the protection of teachers and learners.
ACT also called for the hiring of school nurses and utility personnel to “free teachers of the additional and heavier non-teaching tasks” that the Department of Education (DepEd) assigned to teachers in light of the school reopening.
In other countries and in companies and other government offices in the Philippines, ACT said that weekly screening testing must be done to ensure that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) virus will not enter the school premises.
He also underlined that special vaccination program should be undertaken in the areas where pilot face-to-face classes are being held, especially since vaccine roll-out in these localities were late and insufficient.
Basilio shared that the “greatest fear of teachers and families of learners is their incapacity to afford expensive COVID-19 treatment.” Thus, ACT said that the government must “set aside a medical fund” for this purpose.
“Our teachers are given heavier responsibilities for the school reopening,” Basilio said.
“Apart from conducting daily health check of all participating learners, they are tasked to man and manage school clinics in the absence of available health professional, and will surely shoulder the burdensome sanitation and disinfection duties as school utility personnel are very scant,” he added.
ACT urged the government to hold a mass hiring of school nurses and utility personnel to boost school safety and let teachers do their primary work of teaching.
The group also called for the provision of hazard pay to teachers who will participate in the face-to-face learning.
“The government should give incentives to teachers who face the challenges of school reopening head on,” Basilio said. “They will be exposing themselves and their families to great risks, they only deserve to be granted hazard pay,” he added.
To address these concerns, ACT called on the Duterte administration to release additional funds for the needs or safe school reopening, noting that such were not provided in the 2021 budget.
“As the government has no clear plans to reopen schools when the 2021 budget was deliberated, the needs of the pilot run were not incorporated in this year’s budget,” Basilio said. “It is only fair as it is necessary that supplementary funding be provided for this,” he added.