By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Various groups have expressed concerns over the lack if not absence of clear guidelines on how distance learning will be carried out with public school commencing today, World Teachers’ Day.
“Our teachers have been at the forefront in ensuring the delivery of education to our youth amid the pandemic. Teachers are frontliners too,” ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said.
Earlier today, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the government is ready to implement a blended learning program, saying that heroes never asked if they were ready to lead the resistance. Everyday, she added, new crises and problems arise, and that student should not be made to wait.
Castro, however, said that teachers’ demands are simple: they can be genuinely honored if their needs to safely reopen schools and deliver quality and accessible education are translated into the 2021 national budget. This means that budget must be allocated in critical inputs for education such as instructional materials.
“Their demands are not for themselves, but for the betterment of the quality of education our youth will receive. It is the Duterte administration’s responsibility to provide these basic demands for enough learning modules per student, available gadgets and laptops for both student and teachers for online classes, adequate health measures are in place to ensure health safety for both teacher and student, and sufficient teaching expenses allowances for our teachers in this new normal for education,” Castro added.
In an earlier statement, the Educators Forum for Development said that schools have yet to put in place standard health infrastructure to guarantee the safety of those who will be required to report physically nor the provision of due social protection for teachers who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
In a protest action last week, teachers attempted to bring before the education department’s attention their pleas for safer and more accessible system for Filipino students and educators. They were, however, dispersed from holding the protest action and were prevented from holding even a short program in front of its central office in Pasig City.
“After all our sacrifices and services, despite the lack of funds, equipment, and policies in providing education to the youth, we were met with a harsh dispersal for holding a peaceful protest,” said Castro.
Peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said that students in the rural areas are also facing more difficulties now. Many of them, the group said, have opted not to enroll due to the limitations of the education department’s various learning modalities.
Under this situation, rural-based learners are at a great disadvantage and among the most marginalized,” said Danilo Ramos of KMP, adding that it is quite too early to claim victory over the pandemic.
Ramos expressed fears of a possible rise of drop-outs from children of farmers and fisherfolk.
Support for educators
The Educators Forum for Development has urged the Duterte administration to provide necessary support for educators both in the public and private sectors.
“Educators play an important role in teaching future generations to become society builders. They are now challenged – even burdened – to uphold this role however amid a raging pandemic that has prompted schools to implement distance learning,” the EFD said in a statement.
As of this writing, more than 100,000 school teachers and employees from private schools have been retrenched due to the low enrolment. The education department must acknowlege the toll of the pandemic on teacher’s physical and mental well-being, the group added.
The hiring of displaced private school teachers through the “Support to Schools and Learners Program,” the EFD said, is but a “token adulation” as they deserve a better response.