At a protest action commemorating Teachers’ Day, public educators bemoaned their low salary, heavy workload, and issues under K + 12.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Free spa treatment and thank you cards are only few of the many perks that the Department of Education (DepEd) is giving public school teachers for the Teachers Month celebration from Sept. 5 to Oct. 5.
But for Benjie Valbuena, president of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), thanking teachers would be more meaningful if their long time call for a salary increase would be granted.
“Who wouldn’t want free spa and thank you cards? We would love to have that. But teachers would be much happier and we would feel that we are really being taken cared of if government heeds the teachers’ call for a salary increase,” Valbuena said during a protest action at Chino Roces Bridge (former Mendiola Bridge) last Wednesday, Oct. 1.
After the Salary Standardization Law III (SLL III) under the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Valbuena said, their salary has not been increased.
Valbuena slammed President Benigno S. Aquino III and Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad as the only hindrance to the passage of House Bill 245. Under this bill, teachers’ salary will be increased from P18,549 ($414) to P25,000 ($559) and non-teaching personnel from P9,000 ($201) per month to P15,000 ($335).
Prices of basic commodities and utilities have been increasing since 2009 when the SSL III was enacted, Valbuena lamented. Yet, he added, the Aquino administration has been callous to the plight of public school teachers.
Celia Tan, 36, a grade four teacher in Putatan Elementary School in Muntinlupa receives P18,549 per month. She has three children, two of them are studying. With her monthly salary, she pays P4,300 ($96) for her housing loan. Then she has to take care of the bills for household utilities, food, transportation and expenses in the education of her two children. Sometimes, she said, if she has consumed the P1,000 ($22) per year chalk allowance, she even has to shell out money for her teaching needs.
She calls it “magical budget.”
“When I receive my salary, I budget it already deducting all the payments I have to make and allocate the rest according to our needs. It disappears like magic,” she said in an interview with Bulatlat.com. Her husband is a mechanic whose meager income somehow augments their monthly budget. “Of course, it is still not enough. What if one of us gets sick?” she added.
Added work, but no added pay
Tan also lamented the added workload under the DepEd’s Learners Information System (LIS) and Results Based Performance Management System (RPMS).
RPMS is pursuant to Administrative Order (AO) No. 25 entitled “Creating an Inter-agency Task Force on the Harmonization of the National Government Performance, Monitoring, Information and Reporting Systems. Under this policy, teachers are required to reach their target output to have a 130 percent or Very Satisfactory rating.
Tan said RPMS only gave teachers additional work aside from teaching and other special assignments. “We have to observe our co-teachers, a task we didn’t have to do until RPMS was implemented,” she said and then quipped, “Don’t we deserve additional pay given the additional work?”
Meanwhile, under the LIS, teachers are tasked to put the students’ record in the DepEd’s website. “I have to stay up until past midnight just to log-in and upload the students’ data in the DepEd website. It is very time consuming because logging-in alone is very slow. They said many teachers accessing the DepEd website to upload the data experience lags in the system,” Tan said.
Amy Segovia, a high school teacher in Sapang Palay National High School slammed the LIS saying that they shoulder the internet cost. “The DepEd is not even providing us budget for internet use and the gadgets we needed to encode. We have to shell out from our own pockets just to do this task,” Segovia lamented in their protest action in Mendiola.
“We are not robots. We have to sleep so we can have energy the next morning when we teach. We should not be awake late at night just to this clerical job. While DepEd officials are very comfortable in their air-conditioned offices, we, the teachers who hone the future leaders, are suffering,” Segovia said.
Suspend K to 12
Another torment to teachers is the implementation of the K to 12 program. Teachers complain that textbooks and teaching modules have not been distributed to teachers and students, and they lack comprehensive training on the new curriculum.
ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio cited the lack of facilities to accommodate senior high school students (SHS) or grade 11 and 12. In SHS, students may choose from special courses: business and entrepreneurship, humanities and social science, science, technology and engineering, sports and technical and vocational.
“In the implementation of the K to 12 program, the DepEd has not provided modules for teachers. Textbooks for students under the K to 12 program are not even complete. If you are going to be asked, is our government ready for the implementation of the K to 12 program?” Tinio addressed the teachers in the protest action, who all responded with a resounding “no.”
Professor Rowie Madula, president of the ACT-Private schools cited the more than 85,000 professors who will lose their jobs with the full implementation of the K to 12 program in school year 2016-2017. He said most of these professors belong to private colleges and universities.
“Under the K to 12 program, the General Education subjects will be taught in high school. At present, these General Education subjects are taught in college. Once these subjects will be taught in high school, professors teaching General Education will be laid-off from work,” he said.
Madula also said Filipino teachers in the tertiary level are to be laid-off due to the removal of the Filipino subject in college as stipulated in the Ched Memorandum No. 20.
“The implementation of the K to 12 must be stopped immediately as it furthered the problematic standing of the public education system in the country brought about by the unpreparedness of the government in its implementation,” said France Castro, secretary general of ACT.
Castro said the shortages on teachers, classrooms, learning materials, equipment and facilities “will be compounded” with the start of the Senior High School (SHS) program next year. “We fear that a disaster will happen next year if K to 12’s implementation will not be suspended,” she said.
For the welfare of teachers
Valbuena reiterated that Teachers’ day is commemorated because it is 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.
“Thus, our call for salary increase is only just,” he said.
For her part, Castro said: “If the government really considers us as the new heroes, increasing our salaries would be the best act to manifest such consideration. We call on legislators, as the Senate deliberates on the 2015 national budget, to act on their demand for a salary increase based on its merits and necessity. We hope that we will not be pushed to our limits and will be forced to launch a nationwide mass leave. We are already restless. We are only asking for what is due to us.”