By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — “We are overworked but underpaid, but even so, I never think of quitting my job,” said Michelle Silva, a teacher of five years at the Demetrio Tuazon Elementary School.
On this year’s World Teachers Day, Silva, like other hundreds of teachers from across the country, joined the nationally-coordinated mobilization to push for a ten-point demand, including an increase in their salary.
Silva joined fellow teachers in a “chalk walk” to Malacañang, Oct. 5.
Hundreds of public school teachers in the National Capital Region, Davao City, Masbate City, Negros City, Baguio City, Iloilo City, Butuan City, Central Luzon, Bohol, and Cagayan de Oro City held simultaneous protest actions to urge the Aquino administration to prioritize the education sector by allocating a higher, sufficient budget.
The United Nation recommends that the education budget should amount to six percent of the country’s gross domestic product – at least P550 billion ($13 billion) – however, this is not so. The budget for debt servicing is twice higher than the budget on social services, including education. The budget for education is P238 billion ($5.6 billion) while the budget for debt servicing is P738.6 ($17 billion).
“The president remains apathetic our demands,” Benjie Valbuena, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) vice chairman said. Valbuena added that even as the 2012 budget on education increased by P31 billion ($738 million) compared to the 2011 education budget, the allocation is still not enough to cover the shortages in teachers, classrooms, chairs, among others.
According to ACT, at least 104,000 new teachers are needed to address the shortage.
The teachers were supposed to meet with Aquino but, Valbuena said, they were told that their request letter did not reach the president and thus, no one in the Malacañang was ready to meet them.
Foremost in their ten-point demand is the upgrading of teachers’ salaries from grade 11 to grade 15 for Teacher 1 and salary grade 16 for Instructor 1. Teachers at entry level receives only P17,000 ($404). ACT wants it to be increased to P21,000 ($500).
Joy Martinez, a teacher at the Imelda Elementary School in Malabon said the government missed the essence of commemorating Teachers Day. “Teachers day is commemorated because it was during this day that the International Labor Organization (ILO) and United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) signed the Recommendation concerning the Status of teachers, a consensus on the status, salaries, and protection of teachers around the world.”
The Department of Education (DepEd) held their celebration at the Philippine Sports Arena where celebrities serenaded the teachers.
Martinez said it is about time that the government should give priority to the demand of teachers. With a measly P3,000 to P4,000 average take home pay ($71 to $95), Martinez said, teachers are forced to pawn their ATM to loan sharks.
Teachers also demand for bigger subsidy for the Philippine Normal University (PNU), the national center for teacher education, as well as other state universities and colleges (SUCs). According to ACT, PNU’s budget proposal for the year 2012 is P754.9 million ($17 million) but only P284.9 million ($6.78 million) was approved.
“There is a need to increase the budget of SUCs because it is where teachers come from. Without quality education, there can be no good teachers. What do we expect from our teachers if the budget for our SUCs continues to be slashed?” Ramon Guillermo, president of All UP Academic Employees Union, said in a program held outside the Malacañang Palace on Wednesday.
Chalk allowance, corporal punishment
ACT is also lobbying for an increase in the chalk allowance from P700 ($16) to P2,000 ($47) a year. The government is bargaining to lower the chalk allowance to P1,000 ($23).
“Chalk is a very basic need of a teacher. Why do we need to ask for it?” said Cristina Manalo, a teacher from E. Rodriguez High school and president of Philippine Public School Teachers Association (PPSTA).
Silva said a teacher has to make ways to make the P700 chalk allowance last for one year. “One chalk box which costs P80 ($1.90) is only good for one week. There are teachers who spend their own money because the P700 chalk allowance is really not enough.”
To save chalk, Silva said, they write lessons on a manila paper but they also buy the cheapest refillable markers. Silva said a quality marker may cost almost a hundred pesos (more than $2), but because they have limited budget they only buy markers that costs P30 ($0.71).
Aside from the lack of budget for teaching needs, teachers are also facing issues like corporal punishment.
“Do our legislators know that corporal punishment may take different forms and teachers also suffer from it? Our class size is more than twice even trice larger than the standard class size of 25. We work overtime and our salaries are not even increased. Isn’t that exploitation?” Manalo said.
“We teachers are short fused. We are forced to pawn our ATM; we think about where to get our transportation for the next day. And yet, teachers are still to blame,” Manalo said.
ACT also issued the following demands:
1) Regularization of all volunteer/contractual teachers. According to DepEd, there are 49,530 locally funded teachers and 19,063 volunteer kindergarten teachers now working in public schools. ACT said DepEd should prioritize the regularization of the employment status of these teachers so that they too will receive the proper compensation and benefits.
2) Creation of 100,000 new permanent teacher items to address shortages of teachers.
3) Increase base productivity pay to P5, 000 ($119) per year. For 10 years, teachers’ base productivity pay is, according to Valbuena, P2,000 per year ($47).
4) Increase in clothing allowance to P6,000 per year ($142) from P4,000 ($95).
5) Allotment of P91.5 billion ($2.17 billion) to address shortages in classrooms and other school facilities.
6) Allotment of adequate budget for universal kindergarten. Valbuena said only P1.9 billion ($45,238) was added to the budget for universal kindergarten when in fact about P18 billion ($42 million) is needed to fund the salaries of teachers alone.