No sufficient budget for distance learning

Learning module preparation at Handumanan National High School. (Photo from the Handumanan National High School Facebook page)

“This is an injudicious handling of the people’s coffers, seeing as how the state’s insufficient funding will further deprive millions their constitutionally granted right to accessible and quality education, while education workers will be subjected to unsafe working conditions and forced to again make up for shortages.”

Related story: Not enough protection and care for teachers amid the pandemic

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Lack of paper, photocopying machines and printers. These are but some of the hings that most public schools need for the implementation of distance learning for the school year 2020-2021.

Richard Macalad Gelangre, principal of the Handumanan National High School (HNHS) in Bacolod City, told Bulatlat that he had to ask for donations to augment their budget for the printing of students’ modules. He said that they are are utilizing the school’s funds for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) for these needs.

Like Galangre, most schools have to make do with the existing funds under the MOOE to reproduce the modules needed for this school year, according to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT). Instead of allotting budget for education during this time of pandemic, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has denied the Department of Education’s request for a P65-billion ($1.337 billion) supplemental budget for its learning continuity plan (LCP).

The lack of support for education is also apparent in the proposed 2021 national budget, according to the initial study of ACT Teachers Party-list.

Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro lamented that DepEd’s budget is slashed by P9.3 billion ($191 million) for programs “vital to ensuring safe and quality education for all” including Special Education Program, World Teachers Day Incentive, Basic Education Facilities, among others.

Schools struggling with limited resources

Gelangre said that the school’s MOOE, which amounts to P4.5 million ($92,776), is originally intended for repair of facilities and payment of utilities, among others.

With more than 4,300 students enrolled for this school year, Gelangre said they need at least 3,200 reams of paper for modules. With their meager budget, the school was only able to buy 600 reams.

The school principal said that only one out of 20 sections from grade 7 to 12 will be able to attend online classes.

He estimates that the school would be needing at least P16-20 million ($329,870-$412,337) per year for distance learning. If the standards for modules set by DepEd would be followed, he estimates that the school needs at least P1 million ($22,060) for paper and ink alone.

Last August 17, their school received donations such as photocopiers, printers and bond paper, among others. The local school board will also extend support, he said, but it will take time due to the procurement process in government.

Gelangre is worried that they cannot sustain the printing of modules for the whole school year considering the expenses. He said their MOOE would run out in just months if no funds would be coming from the DepEd national office.

Gelangre also said that printing of modules should just be temporary. As of now, he said, the supply of paper is already dwindling. He said that DepEd should find a way to put the modules in tablets where students can easily access their lessons.

Like Gelangre, Helene Dimaukom, 62, a teacher from Canizares National High School in Cotabato City, said they also have to make do with the remaining school funds and with some donations from alumni.

Officers of Handumanan National High School General Parents Teachers Association School Year 2019-2020 handed over their donation to Principal Richard Malacad Gelangre of the Handumanan National High School in Bacolod City. Donations include photocopier, printer, bond papers among others. (Photo courtesy of Richard Malacad Gelangre Facebook page.)

Dimaukom also said that as of now, the reproduction of modules is only about 30 percent done. The modules were also written by the teachers in the region as there are also no modules from the DepEd central office, Dimaukom said.

The teachers also have to shell out from their own pockets the expenses for making video lessons for distance learning. Aside from that, they also spend for their own protection such as masks and alcohol.

Unlike in the provinces, local government units in the National Capital Region (NCR) are able to cover the needs of teachers as well as students.

Kristhean Navales, president of the Quezon City Public School Teachers, said the local government of Quezon City has a P29 billion ($597 million) special education fund. Sixty percent of the said amount is allocated to distance learning while the rest is for the health and others, Navales said.

Preschool to grade 6 students will receive printed modules while grade 7 to 12 students will receive tablets. Laptops will also be given to some teachers depending on schools with internet subscription until December this year.

Appropriating enough funds for distance learning

There is no budget for this year’s implementation of the Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan. The DepEd has identified six fund sources for the BE-LCP which are:

1) Recalibration or reprogramming of DepEd’s budget through alignment and modification of Programs, Activities and Projects (PAPs);
2) Use of available balance of the school maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE);
3) Use of the LGU- Special Education Fund (SEF) in coordination with LGUs;
4) Enhanced partnerships with Development Partners and access to Official Development Assistance (ODA);
5) Enhanced Brigada Eskwela and maximized private sectors contributions; and
6) Request to Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and/or Congress for Supplemental Budget.

While there is a P4 billion ($82 million) provision for the education department under the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill pending in Congress, ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said this provision can only cover the P1,500 ($31) per month internet allowance demand for 900,000 public school teachers from October to December.

“How much more are the health measures that need to be instituted before October 5? Or the tech needs of teachers and learners, especially as it’s turning out that even the modular approach entails the use of online platforms for monitoring and feedbacking,” Basilio said.

(Photo courtesy of Alliance of Concerned Teachers Facebook page)

The implementation of the BE-LCP also has a cost for teachers who need to buy their laptops because these have not been not provided by the DepEd.

ACT said that the laptops and computers issued in the past years by the DepEd to different schools are not built for distance learning.

Flody Hernandez, a grade 7 teacher from Ramon Magsaysay High School in Cubao, Quezon City, has to save money so that he can buy a new laptop for this school year.

Although DepEd said that teachers are not required to have internet access, Hernandez said they need to go online to contact their students and to research for their lessons.

“We have also paid for our internet connection since there is online training that we have to attend. We also have to buy microphone and headset,” Hernandez told Bulatlat in an online interview.

In the 2021 national budget, the DBM has proposed an allocation of P16.1 billion ($331 million) for the development, reproduction and delivery of learning resources for the implementation of the BE-LCP, P15.2 billion ($313 million) for expanding and institutionalized flexible and multi-modal learning and teaching options, and P9 billion ($185 million) for the ‘expansion of DepEd’s Computerization Program.

The proposed allocation is still 38 percent short of DepEd’s conservative funding request for the needs of BE-LCP, said Basilio.

“This is an injudicious handling of the people’s coffers, seeing as how the state’s insufficient funding will further deprive millions their constitutionally granted right to accessible and quality education, while education workers will be subjected to unsafe working conditions and forced to again make up for shortages,” lamented Basilio.

Longtime neglect of education

ACT has been pointing out that the public education system in the country has not been prioritized for many years. The country’s spending on education has not even reached the United Nation’s recommendation of at least 6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

The inappropriate budget for education has resulted in perennial shortages, the group said. And this was further aggravated by the shift to distance learning due to the present health crisis.

“Without considerable resources, ACT feared that millions more will be further disenfranchised and endangered,” the group said in a statement.

According to DepEd, 23 million students are enrolled for this school year. This is lower than the 27 million enrolled last year, which means that four million students were not able to enrol for this school year.

Gelangre said that the national government should help in funding distance learning. Even the combined MOOE and the special education fund from the local government is not enough to sustain the distance learning, he said.

“We really need help here. It is the national government which has the capacity to fund this (distance learning),” he told Bulatlat in an online interview.

Dimaukom said that they are not asking anything special but only what is needed to ensure that no children will be left behind. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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