Postponement of Classes Pursued by Concerned Groups
To ensure the health of public school students, a coalition of teachers called concerned government institutions to ensure an effective resumption of classes on October 5 or to consider another postponement.
A formal letter has been sent to lawmakers and several agencies by the Teachers’ Integrity Coalition (TDC), including Malacañang, Office of the Vice President, Inter-Agency Task Force on the Treatment of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), Department of Health ( DOH). The Policy and Administration Department (DBM) and the Environment and Local Government Department (DILG).
“TDC’s 5-page study entitled” Notes and Teacher Suggestions on n ine topics and complaints as well as suggestions ranging from wellbeing benefits to the provision of equipment and internet access as well as assistance to private schools, reduction in workloads to the potential modification in the school calendar are included in the Resumption of Classes for School Year 2020-2021.
According to the community, input from a series of consultations, online meetings and informal polls has been obtained from their representatives and field members.
“Classroom teachers, principals, and supervisors from all regions are represented here. Therefore, we assure your office that the statements made here illustrate our teachers’ general feelings,” Benjo Basas, the national chairperson of the organization, said in the letter.
While we have argued for a January 2021 class opening vs. August 24 from day 1, we make it clear nonetheless that we do not fundamentally oppose the Department of Education (DepEd)’s modified October 5 schedule. We appreciate this small change, but teachers and learners ‘protection and security are real problems that have yet to be adequately addressed by the DepEd, particularly that the state of healing is critical.
The TDC said that at some stage, nearly a million teachers who are in charge of servicing 24 million learners will be required to engage physically with parents and other stakeholders, which they said is “a health and safety nightmare that brings chills to the spines of the well” because people will take public transit buses, transfer thousands of modules back and forth and at some point. As of yesterday, more than 299, 000 cases of COVID-19 in the country have been reported by the DOH.
The TDC seeks to pursue dialogues and forge alliances. As conveyed in our many letters to the Central Office, we are very willing to work with the DepEd. We fervently hope that the leadership of the DepEd can see the importance in respecting the views and emotions, including the uproar in teachers in crafting policy and program preparation, “Basas continued.”
NOTES AND RECOMMENDATIONS FROM TEACHERS ON THE RESUMPTION OF CLASSES OR SCHOOL YEAR 2020-2021
“Lahat ng kakulangan sa mga plano, sa badyet, sa komunikasyon, sa mga kagamitan, pati na ang kahandaan ng mga bata at magulang kanilang, at lahat ng maaaring mga pagkukulang pa sa parating na pasukan ay ang mga guro pa rin ang inaasahang magpupuno.”
This idea from our National President, Benjo Basas, has always been true and for more years has defined our education system than anyone cares to count. Consequently, we apply these field notes with the accompanying guidelines for immediate corrective intervention by the applicable government departments. These notes have been consolidated as a result of a variety of meetings with our members. Classroom teachers, principals, and supervisors from all regions around the country are reflected here and illustrate the general feelings of our teachers to the best of our understanding.
Teachers are not mere implementers of the DepEd’s plans and programs, but should be consulted on their opinions, ideas and sentiments. Education reform initiatives that do not make teachers’ welfare paramount would be in vain if not harmful to education.On health benefits and hazard pay for teachers and personnelBenjo Basas, National President
Health Benefits and Hazard Pay for Teachers and Personnel
The Department of Education (DepEd) as the primary agency tasked to implement the welfare provisions of the 54-year old, 1966 vintage Magna Carta for Teachers (RA 4670) must ensure that the benefits enumerated by the law will be provided. However, crucial at this time of pandemic are the provisions for free and compulsory medical examination treatment and hospitalization, and compensation for injuries are not implemented until this very day when the teachers need it most. The assurance of a P500 medical check-up allowance that will be given for the first time since 1966 cannot absolve the agency of its disregard for this particular provision for the longest time. Nevertheless, the response, though belated is still appreciated. We appeal to government to provide both financial and comprehensive medical assistance to DepEd employees who report physically, on top and outside of Philhealth or GSIS benefits. Health protocol measures that include provision of protective equipment, disinfection materials and sanitation facilities should be provided to our public schools. If in case, like we have seen, teachers will be hit by COVID-19, the need for fellow teachers and employees to draw from their own pockets in order to help their colleagues should be eradicated. It is incumbent upon the national government to provide comprehensive support to DepEd employees struck by COVID-19, from initial swab test, to the full course of treatment and to final verificatory swab test.
Concomitant to this is the holding responsible of violators of DepEd’s own rules, school and division officials who compel their subordinates to report despite the work from home (WFH) policy issued by the Central Office. The job of teachers is to teach. Why therefore, must they be compelled to report to school where there are no students to teach in the first place? After all, all the teaching modalities introduced by the DepEd for this school year can be done remotely.
Further, a paid sick leave or quarantine leave mechanism must be created to respond to the needs of employees who would need to file a leave of absence resultant to being put in isolation for COVID-19. Requisite to this, the DOH must first declare employees who are officially required to physically report to their workplace as “Frontliners” with the corresponding rights and privileges afforded the said function
MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM, CREATION OF MORE TEACHING ITEMS AND STRENGTHENING OF GUIDANCE AND COUNSELING PROGRAMS
As part of health management for employees, psychological debriefing may be considered. Teachers are eager to go back to teaching but it must be ascertained that they could function well after this pandemic. Indeed, we have teachers already contemplating on taking leave of absence preceding retirement
One good idea for teachers wpo may not be able to adjust immediately to the new normal would be to assign them responsibilities that would not require such huge adjustments and steep learning curve. Hiring more teachers at this time is another excellent idea as not only do we really need more teachers, but we also need to absorb the displaced teachers from the private schools and part-time instructors from state universities and colleges (SUCs) that did not make it through the pandemic. Two birds in one stone.
We might want to include hiring more guidance counselors while at it. Registered Guidance Counselors, even before this pandemic are necessities in our schools, to help both students and teachers. But we further appeal to the DepEd to consider a comprehensive reform on hiring qualified GCs and proper compensation grade is just one of them.
Service Laptops and Communication or Distance Learning Allowance
Teachers today have absolutely no choice but to spend at least P1,500 monthly on internet connection alone to be able to fulfill their duties to their learners numbering in several hundreds Video conferences, text messages, calls, surfing, downloading and uploading materials, all of these now define this era, and COVID-19 made this digital learning tenfold a necessity. But teachers are supplied neither service laptops nor internet allowances. They are forced, from their own sorry pockets, to buy not only laptops, but android phones, external drives, USB drives, printers, ink and reams of bond paper. And it does not end at buying these equipments, laptops, especially, would need to be repaired sooner or later for burned motherboards, broken keyboards, damaged screens, dead batteries, etc. Printers have a thousand things that could go wrong so soon after purchase. And being “personal equipment, repairs and parts replacements will have to be shouldered-yet once again-by teachers.
While some LGUs are able to pitch-in on equipment like laptops once in a while, the DepEd must fulfill its mandate, take charge, and end all this injustice of the majority of teachers having to steal from their own families just to provide good education to other people’s children. The DepEd needs to clarify as well its claims on the 93% supplied with gadgets. How many “gadgets per school, what sort of gadgets, and which schools? This claim got many thinking what the claim was all about given that most of our teachers has ever heard of any one receiving one of these gadgets.
Last September 15, the DepEd released a memorandum stating that the agency is preparing for the provision of connectivity and communications expense for its employees. However, the same memorandum sets conditions for those who could be able to avail the incentive. Worse, the deadline for the activation of DepEd Commons account, the sole requirement to qualify is scheduled last September 21. While the TDC appreciates this effort of providing internet connection for our teachers, we would like to suggest that the internet data allowance be given to all our teachers and employees without conditions or deadlines. Obviously, everybody in the DepEd is badly in need of internet data- in whatever form- in bytes or in cash,
A standardized monthly internet or distance teaching allowance of at least P1,500.00 could help our teachers perform better.
Use of Books rather than Expensive Modules
If it has been determined that modules should be the main delivery system replacing text books, there needs to be one standard method for creating them. We are supposed to have specialists and experts in the Central and Regional offices who should design them. But what is happening is that divisions are being compelled to draw Plan Bs as it becomes more and more visible that Central Office will not be able to deliver on time. Now we have modules from the Central Office and modules from divisions or even schools. Which one takes precedence then? This is not a simple “left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, the left hand doesn’t know what it’s doing itself either! But the right hand isn’t doing so well itself, leaving the burden now on-who else- teachers!
Realities on the ground are awful. Schools produced their own modules and actually raised funds to be able to meet the requirements of DepEd. Some of our teachers resorted to online solicitations and even barter, some of them would describe this as begging. Still, many were forced to personally finance these modules- materials which are supposedly state-funded. Yet, in the end and after the government has allotted 9 billion pesos for these modules, the readiness of the system, even for the first quarter proved to be inadequate. There are reported cases that schools have resorted to a scheme where modules will be shared by two groups of learners due to failure to provide learning packets individually. Based on our informal survey made thru social media, most of the schools have only readied these materials only for the first two weeks up to the first month of the coming school year.
Recently, Secretary Leonor Briones herself stated in a news conference that the use of modules has an implication to environment and will put our trees in danger aside from being very expensive. We want to see this pronouncement in terms of policies. We challenge the DepEd to use the printed books and instead supply the necessary activity sheets or lesson guides. Thus, may we propose to halt the further production of modules to be used for the second quarter up to the rest of the school year.
Assistance to Private Schools, hiring of displaced private school teachers and reduction of workload
Recently, the DepEd said that there were around 748 private schools nationwide that have decided not to operate for school year 20202021 due to very low enrolment turn out. This involves some 3, 233 teachers that will lose their jobs. Further, DepEd data show that less than 50% of those expected to enroll in private schools have enlisted for this year or a little more than two million students. The data could be translated to migration, many of private school clients have decided to transfer to their public counterpart following the crisis.
Because of this mass migration, our public schools have experienced a sudden rise in enrolment, which will eventually be the cause of heavy workloads for our teachers who are now still trying to cope with the new teaching modalities. To have 50 students in a single class, in whatever form of distance learning modality- online or modular would be very difficult and demanding physically, emotionally and mentally. Some teachers were forced to handle multiple modalities, like teaching online and teaching thru modular means. Those with special duties like the teacher-broadcasters, researchers or writers are still given classroom tasks instead of focusing on these novel assignments.
Thus, there should be a comprehensive assistance package especially for the small private schools that are dependent on the enrolment fees for their operation and the mission schools in far-flung areas that cater to the least fortunate communities. The government may either subsidize some of our private schools or immediately hire the displaced private school teachers and employees and evenly distribute the workloads. In doing so, the DepEd could modify the hiring procedure so that positions that are included in 2020 budget could be filled up immediately prior to the October 5 class resumption
The DepEd may determine the ideal class size of not more than 25 learners in intermediate and secondary, 20 for primary and 15 for kindergarten, for example.