EDUCATION BLUES: A bULATLAT Special Report
Picturing the State of Education
Shortages in chairs, electric fans, classrooms and
teachers, among others, seem to be common media fodder come the first
Monday of June when classes open. Such problems have become common since
nothing much has been done to solve them through the years. A visit to a
school in Navotas, Metro Manila gives one a “picture” of the state of the
BY TRINA FEDERIS
A visit to a public elementary school
located in Navotas, Metro Manila only leads to one conclusion. This is a
school that needs a lot of work.
Many of its classrooms’ ceilings have
deteriorated so much that the wooden rafters are already showing and marks
left by rainwater that has seeped through are clearly visible. A teacher
who requested anonymity said that when the rainy days come, students
experience rain inside the classroom.
A classroom is rendered unusable, as
during high tide, water from the street floods the classroom. This
happens, said a teacher, because the street is higher. Due to lack of
funds, they have to resort to dumping pebbles instead of reconstructing
the whole floor to raise it, according to the principal.
Teachers said that some classrooms
have only two ceiling fans, one of which is already antiquated. They added
that not all classrooms have stand fans because these sometimes get
stolen. “Ang init-init pa man din dito, lalo na ‘pag June at
July na” (It can get quite hot in here, especially during the
months of June and July), a teacher said. The doors and its locks are
broken because of the burglaries, they said.
There is an average of 37 chairs in a
classroom that accommodates 45 to 50 pupils, a teacher said. Those in the
back row are usually in a state of disrepair. When asked how 50 students
will fit in 30-something chairs, the teacher just shrugged her shoulders
and said, “Minsan tabi-tabi na sila diyan, dala-dalawa sa isang upuan
para magkasya.” (Sometimes they sit beside each other, two in a chair
meant for one so that they can all fit in.)
As one walks along the corridor, one
would notice that some classrooms have screened windows. A teacher said
that this is necessary, as the people living next to the school throw
their trash into the empty lot located in between them. The parcel of land
is a breeding ground of mosquitoes, which explains the necessity of
screened windows. However, not all classrooms have this. One of the
classrooms used for Grades I and II students is an example.
The bathrooms at the end of the
corridor have no water and students have to make use of buckets to get
water at the other end of the school. This is the case because the water
tank’s connection is broken, a teacher said.
A gutter in front of the bathrooms is
readily visible and it is almost filled with murky water. Plastic cups and
other garbage float in the mess, and upon closer inspection, one will see
kiti-kiti (larva of mosquitoes), tadpoles and other creatures.
According to the assistant principal,
classroom shortage is a problem though not as serious as the shortage of
chairs. She said that the school only needs one or two more classrooms.
There are many elementary schools in their area so the school’s student
population is not saturated compared to other schools.
Education budget should be doubled
The situation in this public
elementary school in Navotas shows the problems plaguing the country’s
educational system, mainly rooted in the government’s lack of budgetary
allocation for education.
How much should the Philippines be
spending on its education? Citing a UNESCO study, Tinio said that the
Philippines should be spending 6% of its gross national product (GNP) on
education. Currently, it is only using 3% of GNP.
With this figure as basis, Tinio
stressed that P72.3 billion ($1.37 billion) should be added to the
education budget last year to meet the 6% standard of UNESCO.
Spin-off of financial crisis
The low budgetary allocation for
education has its roots in the 1997 financial crisis, from which we have
yet to recover, Tinio said. “During that time, a ‘limited or zero growth’
policy was implemented on public development. Napako yung budget,
lalo na ng education.” (The budget remained as is, especially for
He said that this policy should be
lifted now as prices of goods keep rising, as well as the number of
Another issue is foreign debt payment.
“In the proposed budget for 2006, P721 billion ($13.64 billion) will be
allocated for interest and principal payments. That is seven times more
than the proposed budget for education,” he said.
Some schools, according to Tinio, rely
instead on charity to finance the maintenance of the school.
Tinio said that charity will not work
for the public school system. Aside from not addressing the lack of
government budget for education, it maintains unequal social relations,
wherein a public school waits for a dole-out from an obscenely affluent
donor. “Why isn’t charity the solution to poverty? Because it doesn’t
solve the problem. Nananatili yung di-pagkakapantay-pantay sa lipunan.”
(The social inequality remains.)
Education as basis of democracy
Tinio stressed that as citizens, the
people must fight for their right to be educated. “Nasa
Constitution yon, it guarantees the right of everyone to education.
Obligasyon ng ating gobyerno na tugunan ito, dahil ito ang basis
ng demokrasya. Ipaglaban natin ito. Government should prioritize
education, not debt payments.” (The Constitution states that we have a
right to be educated; it guarantees the right of everyone to it. It’s our
government’s obligation to address it, because education is the basis of
democracy. We must fight for it. Government should prioritize education,
not debt payments.) Bulatlat
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2006 Bulatlat
Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided
its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.