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Lumad children vow to continue education despite threat by Duterte to bomb their schools

Hundreds of Lumad including students are in Metro Manila to attend the State of the Nation Address protests this month. While here, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to bomb their schools, accusing these to be teaching Communism to indigenous children.

Watch the response of the Lumad children. Read more

The profession that never pays enough

By Reynald Denver del Rosario of UP-CMC for Kodao Productions

LUDY LOCSIN would sit in her empty cream-colored office on most school day mornings, waiting for students to arrive. Before long, she would see through her window parents dropping off their children and seeing them off to their classrooms.  When the school bell rings at seven that is when her own official day begins.

That she says is the most peaceful time of her workday. As the first classes begin, calm descends on the entire school and she has time to read documents and tackle problems an assistant principal is expected to solve.

The bell would ring again before noon and she becomes busier, greeting parents who would enter her room for whatever concern they have with their children’s education. Preschool students would also regularly drop in with purple stars on their wrists and tell her how its ink has stained their uniforms. She would listen, always with a smile.

In the afternoons, Locsin would meet her class for an hour in the next school building. She dreads this part of the day, she says. It isn’t the chemical equations or the periodic table she would ask her students to master, but the flight of stairs she has to conquer first before she can reach her classroom. For someone who will turn 55 soon, climbing to the third floor has started to become hard.

For an hour, she would stand in front of her class and make sense out of what the chemistry textbook says. She would write on the chalkboard formulae trying to make equations interesting to teenagers. She knows her students find the subject hard. She knows they are sometimes distracted because they are almost always bored with offline activities. She admits to finding high school students increasingly hard to teach. But she coaxes them with patience and kindness. Every student in the school knows her as the school’s motherly figure.

She could have been a chemical engineer, she says. But she chose to be a teacher only because her other friends did. Eventually, she fell in love with it and never looked back. She has learned and taught it all, from literature to science to mathematics. On odd occassions, she is also the school’s guidance counselor, substitute teacher, sometimes its cashier.

Kulang na lang, maging driver ako ng school bus,” she said, laughing.

She has been teaching in the same private school for twenty years now. She smiles as she looks back at its humble beginnings. From 40 pupils to as high as 600, it has definitely come a long way, she says. She has seen a lot of changes in the school, both good and bad.

Facilities are lacking. An almost-empty science laboratory, outdated computers, damaged speech laboratory equipment. Teachers like her find themselves improvising and finding ways to still provide quality education to the students. The school administration has sought ways to deal with these problems, but it still isn’t enough.

Ludy’s story may be ordinary for private school teachers like her in the Philippines.  But rarely is it acknowledged that those like her receive much smaller salaries than their public school colleagues. And this is their biggest problem.

Private school teachers have lower salaries

According to Representative France Castro of Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), private school teachers only receive an average salary of P10,000 per month. She cited a case where a private school in Isabela only pays their entry-level teachers as low as P8,000 a month.

Minsan nga, umaabot lang yan ng P3,000 e,” she said.

Public school teachers, on the other hand, receive an average monthly salary of P19,620 per month, significantly less than the living wage of more than P26,000 for a family of six.

Teacher Ludy herself was a victim. It was only a year ago that she began receiving the minimum monthly wage from her school. She complained to a government agency, to no avail. She is her school’s regular employee in all but salary and benefits. She did not even remember when she became one.

Schools take care of their teachers, she was told at the start of her career. For two decades, she has learned not to ask for much. Her children, now working, studied in the school for free. Her workplace is a three-minute walk away from home. Her load has become lighter, and in a way, she’s relieved. Her life is simple; her love for teaching is good enough recompense, she told herself.

Her fellow teachers, on the other hand, aren’t as lucky. She has seen them come and go, choosing to find greener pastures. Many of them work now for other institutions. Her colleague for 15 years has recently gone to a public school, and she can’t blame her.

“Mas okay ang sahod doon, at mas magaan ang load,” Ludy says.

Public school teachers also have a relatively lighter teaching load compared to their private school counterparts. It is not always observed, but a public school teacher, by law, is only required to handle minimum of six hours per day, compared to a private school teacher who has to endure nine to 10 hours of work. Some are forced to work overtime but don’t get compensated.

The Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670) also guarantees comparably better working conditions for public school teachers than private school teachers. Private school teachers are covered only by the Labor Code, made ineffectual by numerous loopholes and exemptions, that subjects workers to unfair practices and labor conditions such as low salaries and contractualization.

In short, our private school teachers are more overworked and underpaid than their already overworked and underpaid counterparts in public schools,” Castro said.

Castro added RA4670 by no means make things easier for public school teachers.  Teaching in Philippine public schools still needs much to be desired.

“If things are a little bit better for public school teachers than their private school counterparts, it is only because the former are more organized and have taken to the streets numerous times to defend their rights,” she said.

Unrecognized heroes

Through two decades of selfless dedication, Teacher Ludy has been promoted to assistant principal. But she still cannot help but wish things are better for teachers like her. In moments of doubt, Teacher Ludy thinks of the job and the students she has grown to love.

Doon ako masaya. Doon na lang ako bumabawi. Kita mo itong school, hindi naman ganung kaganda kumpara sa iba pero ang daming estudyante. Kasi maganda ang pakikitungo ng teachers. Yun ang puhunan dito,” she says.

School has meant smiling faces and dreams coming true for Ludy. It gives her more hope, more drive to wake up in the morning and go through the daily grind. Her life as a teacher has been a story of compromise, but she endured it all to be a part of something bigger than herself. Seeing students change for the better and achieve the best things in life has always been her life’s biggest reward. For two decades, she’s still enjoys her work. She enjoys being a part of her students’ lives. She sees in them high hopes and dreams, that someday she will read about them in newspapers or see them in television, talking about how successful they’ve become.

But just like other things, she knows it isn’t forever. Last year, Teacher Ludy already entertained thoughts of retiring, but she changed her mind.

“Hintayin ko na yung retirement age ko. Kung magre-resign ako, wala akong makukuha,” she says. She is not sure the school would pay her retirement benefits if she goes through with her plan and that made her decide to wait it out for half a decade more.

Teacher Ludy waits for the day when the school bell would ring for her one last time. She dreams of no longer answering phone calls, climbing flights of stairs and writing chemical equations on the blackboard. When it comes, she plans on taking it easy at home. It would be a happy moment when an odd student or two would visit her, tell their stories, tell her how life had been. She would listen as she now does in her office, she says, because that would just about be the only proper payment she would receive from decades of dedication and sacrifice from a profession that never pays enough. #

 

Teachers slam DepEd’s anti-teacher statements and policies, demand salary increase

Report and photos by Denver Del Rosario of UP-CMC for Kodao Productions

PASIG CITY—Teachers from the National Capital Region (NCR) staged a protest at the Department of Education (DepEd) yesterday to denounce Secretary Leonor Briones for her anti-teacher remarks and policies.

“She reiterated her insensitive statement that teachers are well-compensated and shall not receive local allowances and additional teaching supplies allowances,” Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)-Philippines Chairperson Benjamin Valbuena said.

Bonifacio Memorial Elementary School teacher Reynaldo Ga also slammed Briones saying the official is lying about teachers’ salaries.

“She is really a liar because deductions from our salaries are enormous. In my case alone, P3,000  is being deducted from my salary,” Ga said.

DepEd said entry level teachers receive a gross salary of P24,399 per month which includes their basic pay, Personal Economic Relief Allowance, and personal benefit contributions such as GSIS, Philhealth and PAGIBIG, among others.

ACT-Philippines, however, said teachers only take home P16,000 after tax and contributions.

The amount is less than half of the Ibon Foundation-announced monthly living wage of P33,570 for a family of six.

Martinez said Briones shot down their proposal to have their chalk allowance increased from P2,500 to P5,000.

Teachers are forced to spend their own monies various school events and requirements, Ga added.

“During summer breaks when we are supposed to be on vacation, DepEd forces us to attend so many seminars that we have to pay for ourselves,” Ga revealed.

“Teachers are really being made to suffer a great injustice as we were only given a measly P500 salary increase these past two years,” ACT Teachers Party’s Joy Martinez said.

According to Martinez, Briones also rejected other suggestions to increase teachers’ salaries.

Briones was among three cabinet secretaries who issued DepEd-DBM-DILG Joint Circular No.1 S. 2017 that prohibits the use of the Special Education Fund for the teachers’ local allowance.

The teachers said Briones has yet to hold a dialogue with the teachers regarding their salaries and benefits.

“We already wrote to her several times, but she refuses to talk to us.  She is close-minded as she only favors private businesses over the public,” Martinez said. #

No free tuition yet under Duterte, students say

Majority of University of the Philippines (UP) students will still be asked to pay matriculation fees despite the Rodrigo Duterte government’s announcement of an additional P8.3 billion funding to make tuition free in state universities and colleges (SUCs) next school year.

This is according to CHED and the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) April 20 Joint Memorandum setting implementing rules and regulations and prioritizing students who could benefit from the program, UP student leaders said in a dialogue with university officials Friday.

The government’s free tuition policy shall only benefit few SUC students based on their families’ socio-economic status and academic standing, they added.

Last Thursday, UP launched its online Student Financial Assistance (SFA) project to align its policies with the joint memorandum from its P367 allocation.

UP said the SFA shall accept student applications for the free tuition program which shall then match the students’ financial needs with multiple financial support and packages into a so-called comprehensive financial support for applicants.

Under the program, students may apply for the Free Tuition Policy (FTP) where recipients of Student Financial Assistance Programs (STFAP) and beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) are prioritized,

Students deemed unqualified under the FTP may apply for the Socialized Tuition System (STS), a bracket-based tuition system that measures a student’s capacity to pay based on socioeconomic factors.

Anti-student scheme

UP Student Regent Raoul Manuel slammed the scheme, saying it is “diametrically opposed to and contrary to the spirit of making tuition free for all.”

Manuel questioned the huge profit the university has collected from students from tuition and other school fees, saying the university under-declared its actual tuition collection of around P900-million, excluding income from other school charges.

He said the cash balance of the university has ballooned from P5.5-billion in 1999 to P12-billion by 2015 kept as part of the university’s revolving fund.

“With such a huge amount in the coffers of UP, we find no justification for the continued collection of fees except for the extraction of further profits from the students,” Manuel said.

Concepcion for his part said the university’s incomes are bound by legal processes.

“Ang pera na yan, earmarked, [at] naka-indicate kung paano gagastusin,” Concepcion explained.

Concepcion said the SFA aims to capture data in case President Rodrigo Duterte vetoes the Affordable Higher Education for All Act, which aims to provide full tuition subsidy for students in state universities and colleges (SUCs).

Gusto naming makita kung sino yung magqu-qualify para mai-budget na natin yung perang hawak natin,” Concepcion said.

SFA also includes various financial aid, including donor-funded grants and presidential scholarships, he said.

According to Concepcion, scholarships and grants automatically becomes stipend for recipients once Duterte signs the bill.

He added that the university will ask for a supplemental budget from the government to cover other school fees since the allotted budget for UP only covers tuition.

Pangako ko naman sa inyo na hahanap tayo ng paraan,” Concepcion said. “’Di niyo ako kalaban dito. I will do all my best to make education free,” he added.

The student-administration dialogue coincided with the National Day of Walkout, where students gathered outside Quezon Hall in UP Diliman to commemorate Duterte’s first year in office and call for the end of tuition collection.

Genuine free education

Despite the administration’s promises, however, the students vowed to stay critical and to strengthen their call for free education.

The students also denounced the real nature of the Rodrigo Duterte government’s so-called free tuition program in only select SUCs and courses around the country.

Ang malinaw ay hindi tiyak na magkakaroon ng libreng edukasyon sa kanya,” Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP) Chairperson Almira Abril said.

Ngayon kailangan nating pag-igtingin ang ating mga panawagan, dahil ang magbibigay sa atin ng libreng edukasyon ay yung social pressure na kayang i-create ng malalaking pagkilos na ikakasa ng kabataan,” she added. # (Denver del Rosario of UP-CMC for Kodao Productions / Featured photo by Gabby Endona)

Students score Duterte for breaking promise to prioritize education

Students from different University of the Philippines (UP) system units scored President Rodrigo Duterte’s failure to prioritize education despite a P8 billion Higher Education Support Fund (HESF) under the government’s free tuition program for 2017.

In a rally on the first anniversary of Duterte in office Friday, the protesters recalled Duterte promised before typhoon Lawin victims in October 2016 that his government’s thrust would be education, followed by agriculture and health. Read more

Lumad schools decry continuing attacks under Duterte govt

Attacks on Lumad schools remained vicious under the year-old Rodrigo Duterte government, up to 80 percent of reported cases happening in the President’s home region of Southern Mindanao, a network of Lumad schools reported.

Lumad schools continued to suffer threats, harassments, intimidations, vilifications, red-tagging and surveillance in the first year of the Duterte government, the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network in a report said.

SOS added there have been five incidents of extrajudicial killings related to the operations of the schools perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its paramilitary units in the past 12 months. Read more

Educators urge lifting of martial law in Mindanao

Educators who participated in the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission in the Lanao provinces last June 13 to 16 are demanding the lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao.

In a press briefing at the University of the Philippines last June 20, the educators said martial law and the indiscriminate manner in which the war against terror groups in Marawi City is being conducted are creating a grave humanitarian crisis that victimizes civilians. Read more

Marawi students resent destruction of schools, humanitarian mission reports

Students in Marawi struggle to regain access to education as the new school year started amid battles between government troops and the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, educators who recently visited evacuation centers in Mindanao said.

“The students harbor deep resentment because their return to their schools for the new school year has been hampered,” All UP Workers’ Union’s Felix Pariñas said.

Pariñas, who participated in the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission to Marawi and Iligan cities last June 13 to 16 was among the panellists in the Books Not Bullets: A Press Forum on the National Humanitarian Interfaith Mission & Needs Assessment by the University of the Philippines-Diliman Delegation held last June 20.

ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro, another mission participant, for her part said more than 20,000 students in the affected areas remain unaccounted for by the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education.

She added that 1,424 teachers are still trapped in Marawi itself, 700 of whom are unaccounted for or have yet to report their status to the DepEd, Castro reported.

The DepEd has reportedly mobilized the Learning Continuity Program that aims to transfer internally-displaced students to schools near Marawi.

But Pariñas said DepEd’s program still has little or no effect as students in various evacuation centers are unsure about their chances of resuming schooling.

UP System Information Office’s Jo Lontoc, also a mission delegate to Iligan and Marawi, said there have yet to be arrangements by the DepEd, the schools and the local government units on the affected students’ situation.

“The fighting broke out during the enrolment period.  They really don’t know if they can still go back to school in the near future,” Lontoc said.

The students also expressed hopes for an end the aerial bombings in Marawi, the delegates said.

“They demand an end to the aerial bombing, hoping they would still have schools to go back to when the fighting stops,” Pariñas said.

“Tattered, ragged,” Pariñas described an elementary school the mission visited.

Lontoc added that many students staying in Marawi dormitories were also forced to evacuate and have yet to reunite with their families.

“They are also evacuees who are separated from their families,” Lontoc said.

Pariñas added that students fear for their safety after President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement he would condone rape by soldiers as Mindanao is under martial law anyway.

“They dread the consequences of the President’s statement,” Pariñas said.

Inefficient response

The mission delegates said that while DepEd organized relief efforts to aid students with school bags and school uniforms, these are bogged down by inefficient distribution as well as safety concerns and martial law restrictions.

“Multiple checkpoints worsen already existing issues such as traffic, even outside Marawi. This limits the inflow of volunteers such as the UP delegates from carrying out their mission,” the delegates said.

Castro said the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives intends to file a house resolution for an investigation into the validity of martial law imposition and the possible humanitarian abuses in Mindanao when regular Congress sessions resume on June 24. # (Eunice Lei Wu of UP-CMC for Kodao Productions / Featured image courtesy of Gabby Endona and Gabe Sante of UP-CMC )

Teachers press for ‘delayed’ salary increase

Public school teachers trooped to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) central offices in Manila last June 16 to press for a ‘long-delayed’ salary increase.

Slamming DBM secretary Benjamin Diokno and Department of Education secretary Leonor Briones’ immediate rejection of their demand, the teachers said the two officials do not understand the hardships the teachers undergo with their “inadequate” wages.

The teachers were led by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and ACT Teachers’ Party. *(Videography by Ivan Dexter Tolentino and Esther Anne Cabrillas / Featured image by ACT) Read more

Teachers demand pay increase and peace

On World Teachers Day 2016, union members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) trooped to the gates of Malacanang Palace in Manila to assert education as a right of the people. Read more