Teachers, parents, and students welcome new school year with protests

Disgruntled education stakeholders welcomed the first day of classes for school year (SY) 2021-2022 with various protests as public schools in basic education remained in a “lockdown” more than a year since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic started.

Photo from Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)

Members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) on Monday, Sept. 13 denounced the Duterte administration’s “continuing neglect of the education sector” and called for the safe re-opening of schools and for bigger state support for distance learning needs.

Without face-to-face classes, the Department of Education (DepEd) is once again implementing distance or blended learning for SY 2021-2022.



“Today, we will be forced into another school year of the underfunded and ill-equipped distance learning, with still no plans from the government on how it can safely re-open our school nor on how it will address the grave issues hounding DepEd’s learning continuity plan,” ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said.

Basilio said that the ACT refuses to allow Duterte’s “indifference to our plight” and DepEd’s “utter disregard for the welfare” of its constituents continue to reign.

Photo from Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)

“As state abandonment peaks, we have no one else to turn to but each other,” Basilio said. “The future of our youth and their right to accessible quality education now lies on the collective resolve of teachers, parents, and students to say ‘no more’ and demand better,” he added.

The day began with teachers’ sunrise protest at Mendiola to press the Duterte government to ensure the benefits and protection of public school teachers who carried the brunt of the shift to remote learning in the last school year.

ACT leaders lamented how teachers remained to be “overworked, underpaid, and undersupported” in the last five years under the current administration.

Throughout the day, teachers held a laptop protest on social media to register their pressing demands for overtime pay and service credits, P1,500 monthly internet allowance, P3,000 inflation adjustment allowance, hazard pay, and their overdue salary upgrading to salary grade 15, among others.

“Despite years of neglect and violation of labor rights from this government, we never wavered in our commitment to deliver education to millions of youth,” said ACT NCR Union President Vladimer Quetua.

Quetua said that teachers have “braved all sorts of risk and danger just to give our students a chance at education” some of which came at heavy costs. “Many of our colleagues fell ill and died due to COVID-19, suffered physically and mentally due to the burdensome demands of distance learning, exhausted personal resources to meet the requisites of various modalities—all as we look after the future of our country, our youth,” he lamented.

“Who looks after us? We only demand what is due us, what we have earned, and what we deserve,” he asked.

Meanwhile, parents and students also held protests in various forms, such as a noise barrage in an urban-poor community, a protest program outside a school in Quezon City while students were dressed up in their uniforms, gathering signatures for a petition to safely re-open schools, setting up a make-shift classroom at Mendiola—all signaling their dismay at the current state of education.

Photo from Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)

Education stakeholders are also urging the government to release a “clear roadmap” on how it plans to address teaching and learning needs amid the pandemic - noting that the country is “lagging behind” in terms of coming up with an effective program for education amid the raging health crisis.

To amplify its demand for safe, accessible, and quality education and ensure the advancement of education workers’ rights and welfare, ACT announced that it will be staging more action protests throughout teachers’ month and beyond. “It’s time for our calls to be heard,” Basilio ended.