April 6, 2022
MANILA — After the rigors of distance learning, perennially underpaid public school teachers now have to use personal resources to retrofit classrooms in preparation for face-to-face classes.
Teachers Dignity Coalition chair Benjo Basas on Tuesday cited reports of teachers having to take out loans in order to buy paint, iron sheets and glass panes to get their classrooms ready.
“That is the problem [of] our teachers. While they are sincere in volunteering, they are being taken advantage of,” Basas said in a phone interview.
He said teachers were not only providing free labor for the enhancement of their classrooms but also soliciting funds from private donors to buy the materials needed for face-to-face classes.
The Department of Education (DepEd) acknowledged the teachers’ added burden and advised them to coordinate with their respective school heads for possible reimbursement.
“We confirm that there are teachers who are doing beyond the regular work for beautifying, enhancing and putting more things in the classroom,” Annalyn Sevilla, DepEd undersecretary for finance, said in a Tuesday press briefing.
“We are thankful to our teachers [for] their creativity and resourcefulness, but we don’t want them to be abused as well,” Sevilla said.
P1B additional budget
Apart from the regular funds for maintenance and other operating expenses, the DepEd has provided an additional budget of close to P1 billion to support the expansion of in-person classes nationwide.
There are items that can be reimbursed, such as supplies, under the department’s budget and accounting rules and regulations, Sevilla said. Thus, teachers were told to approach their school heads to discuss the existing policies.
But Basas was skeptical. Responding to Sevilla’s statement that teachers could reach out to school heads to talk about reimbursement, he said: “Can they really reimburse [the teachers’ expenses]? Teachers are willing to spend, but they should not be given false hopes.”
As of April 5, 17,254 public and private schools have begun conducting face-to-face classes, according to Education Secretary Leonor Briones.
The figure represents 30 percent of the total number of public schools nationwide.
As part of its effort to support the safe reopening of schools, the DepEd, along with the Department of Health and the United States Agency for International Development, has launched the BIDA Kid COVID-19 prevention campaign.
The initiative highlights the 3Bs: Bakuna (Vaccination), Bayanihan (Solidarity), and BIDA behaviors: Best friend natin ang masks, Ingatan at hugasan ang kamay, Dumistansya upang makaiwas sa sakit, Air flow ay panatilihin (Wear masks, observe hand-washing and social distancing to avoid getting sick, and maintain room air flow).
“A safe school environment is crucial for our children’s development, both academically and emotionally. This is only possible if we continue to champion COVID-19 vaccination in our communities and commit to practicing the minimum public health standards everywhere and at all times,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.
Data from the DepEd COVID-19 task force show that around 5.8 million students, or 20.97 percent, have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
For teachers and school personnel, the vaccination rate is above 90 percent, Assistant Education Secretary Malcolm Garma said.
“I would like to emphasize again that, vaccinated or not, children are going to be admitted to our schools,” Briones said, pointing out that mandatory vaccination was being imposed only on teachers and school personnel.
“While we’re not imposing it on the learners, we are encouraging them to be vaccinated because many parents are giving written permission to let the children participate in [in-person] classes,” she said.