“Not only is it a dishonor, it is also an injustice to our teachers to teach amid conditions of scarcity and slave-like compensation. This is something that President Aquino should have learned in his years of study in Ateneo.” – Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Ryan Cristopher Dela Cruz, 31, has committed himself to teaching children. He left teaching to work abroad in 2010 but somehow, he found his way back. Currently, he has been teaching kindergarten for a year. Dela Cruz said the joy of teaching children is priceless. “No words can ever describe how happy I feel when they are learning something from me.”
Dela Cruz is teaching Kindergarten at the Demetrio Tuazon Elementary School in Quezon City. He is one of the volunteer teachers who were hired to teach kindergarten when the Department of Education implemented the first phase of the K to 12 program last June of 2011.
Surely, there are many teachers out there like Dela Cruz who have committed their life to teaching.For their noble work, teachers should be entitled to a salary that can provide them a decent living, should have the necessary materials for teaching effectively and must be accorded due respect. After all, they develop and hone the skills of the future generation.
However, teachers still have to go to the streets to demand a stop to the contractualization of teachers, for an upgrade of their salaries, and for a higher government subsidy to education.
The country’s president may have changed, but the teachers’ demands have not. In 2011, the struggle of teachers continues as their demands are largely ignored even by the current government.
Contractualization of teachers
Dela Cruz was a private school teacher for about six years. He quit his job as a teacher in 2010, flew to Dubai and worked as a waiter. After years of teaching in a private school, Dela Cruz said, he was still looking for a job that he would really love and at that time, he was having second thoughts about teaching as his career.
After one year, Dela Cruz returned to the country. He applied as a teacher at the Demetrio Tuazon Elementary School and was readily accepted as a kindergarten teacher. When asked by Bulatlat.com why he chose to teach this time in a public school, Dela Cruz replied that it is because of the benefits and security of tenure.
“I chose to teach in a public school simply because of the benefits that a government employee is entitled to. But I am not a regular employee here,” Dela Cruz told Bulatlat.com.
As a volunteer teacher, Dela Cruz receives an honorarium of P6,000 ($139) for two shifts of kindergarten classes, for one shift he is being paid P3,000 ($69), which is below the minimum wage. He also doesn’t have any benefit and he even didn’t receive a Christmas bonus.
To make matters worse, his honorarium was given in a lump sum only last November.
According to France Castro, secretary-general of Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), many contractual teachers are quitting their jobs. “We receive reports that some contractual teachers do not want to continue teaching anymore. Imagine, they are only receiving P3,000 for one class of Kindergarten per month. Sometimes the class size is thrice bigger than normal, which is 25 pupils.”
Castro added that teachers who taught at the Kindergarten Summer Program have yet to receive their payment.
Because of insufficient budget for education the DepEd resorts to contracting out teaching positions, which, according to Castro, is becoming a trend in agencies of the government. The implementation of the K to 12 program made contractualization prevalent in public schools since the program’s implementation was not included in the 2011 education budget.
Among the 10 demands of ACT is the regularization/nationalization of all contractual and volunteer teachers.
Upgrading of teachers’ salaries
Teachers are among the government employees who receive low salaries. The entry position of teachers is salary grade 11, with a corresponding salary of P15,649 or $356. The ACT is demanding for an upgrade in the entry-level position for teachers to salary grade 15 (P24,887 or $566) .
While Dela Cruz can bear with the meager amount he receives, he still hopes that the government would listen to the teachers’ demands. “We are making efforts to go to our class every day and be presentable to our students. I even shell out my own money to improve my teaching so that children will be interested to learn. It isn’t much to ask the government to give us what we deserve,” Suzzana De Jesus, principal of Demetrio Tuazon Elementary School, told Bulatlat.com.
Good thing Dela Cruz is not a married man. To augment his meager income, Dela Cruz has three tutorial classes where he is paid P1,000 ($23) per tutorial a month.
Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said, “Not only is it a dishonor, it is also an injustice to our teachers to teach amid conditions of scarcity and slave-like compensation. This is something that President Aquino should have learned in his years of study in Ateneo.” Ilagan is a former teacher in Ateneo de Davao University for four decades.
Citing a Unesco study in 2009, Ilagan said, teachers in the Philippines have the lowest pay in Asia. “Our teachers are among the least compensated in the region. Salaries of teachers in Malaysia, Thailand and Japan almost doubled after 15 years, while those in the Philippines receive a meager 10 to 15 percent increase.”
Suzzana De Jesus, principal of Demetrio Tuazon Elementary School, said a just compensation contributes to teacher’s performance. “A person who works should be at ease with his or her environment. He or she should be well paid and well motivated to be effective.”
De Jesus added that teachers contribute a lot to all the achievements of students. As a principal, she is doing what she can to help teachers like Dela Cruz who receive low compensation . She even lends money to teachers under her. That is why no one can blame teachers for doing sideline jobs such as selling things while in school.
“If you look at the pay slip of teachers, one would notice that some teachers do not receive anything after all their loans have been deducted. ” said De Jesus. Eventually, loan sharks became friendly with teachers.
Despite their meager salaries, teachers also spend their own money to buy chalk for their lessons in school. The P700 ($16) chalk allowance per teacher is not enough for the 10 school months. ACT has been demanding for a P2,000 ($46) chalk allowance. But in the approved 2012 budget, the Department of Budget and Management pegged the chalk allowance at P1,000 ($23).
A teacher needs to be creative in teaching his lessons. But how can a teacher be creative with a meager chalk allowance? Not only do teachers need allowance for chalk but also for other learning materials.
“My tutorial lessons are definitely a big help to augment my teaching needs,” Dela Cruz said.
Worse, there is a perennial shortage of teachers: 103,599 more teachers are needed. This does not yet include the 23,600 Kindergarten teachers needed for the implementation of universal kindergarten. While the government says that education is on top of their priorities, the poor conditions of teachers reveal otherwise. How could the country achieve quality education then?
“Lack of teachers means lack of quality of education. How will we reach the target quality when you have teachers holding oversized classes?” said Elenito Escalante, Chairperson of the Kahugpungan sa mga Magtutudlo ug Kawani sa Edukasyon sa Mindanao-Alliance of Concerned Teachers (KAMKEM-ACT Davao).
In early 2012, Castro said, they will start the ball rolling as they would once again campaign for higher salaries and better benefits for teachers and reiterate their 10 point demand to the Aquino government.