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DepEd: Schools ready; teachers’ unions disagree

MANILA, Philippines — School returns on Monday with two teachers’ unions trying to hammer through education officials’ heads the difference between their talk of readiness and the actual situation on campuses.

Nearly 23 million students are going to 47,025 public schools throughout the country this year.

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The Department of Education marks the total enrollment at 27 million, including private school students. Adding private institutions, the total number of schools comes up to 61,916 throughout the country.

Ready or not?

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Whether the whole system is ready for the deluge of learners — a question that comes up every year since longer than anyone in the education sector can remember — depends on who’s talking.

The education department insists its preparations are sufficient, but two teachers’ groups — the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC)—lament never-ending problems that afflict students and educators alike.

“We have our early registration, school readiness assessment [and], of course, ‘Brigada Eskwela,’” Education Secretary Leonor Briones said, detailing her agency’s preparations for the new school year.

“The department reactivated its annual ‘Oplan Balik Eskwela,’ with a public assistance command center in the central, regional and division offices,” she added.

Oplan Balik Eskwela is a task force consisting of 13 public and private organizations, including the Philippine National Police, the weather bureau, and the energy, health and public works departments.

The PNP is deploying 150,000 officers nationwide to secure schools.

The realities

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ACT said the education officials’ sunny outlook did not reflect the realities on the campuses.

It pointed to the perennial shortage in classrooms, citing as an extreme example the situation in Juan Sumulong Elementary School in Antipolo City, where a classroom has been divided into four to fit in 200 students.

ACT also cited the rotten conditions at old schoolhouses, pointing out as an example Acacia Elementary School in Malabon City where makeshift classrooms are infested with termites.

The TDC urged Briones to look into teachers’ problems.

Benjo Basas, TDC chair, said Briones should meet with teachers to resolve problems like the suspension of the results-based performance management system, ending “rampant class observations,” and providing health benefits and privilege leaves for education employees.

Both the ACT and the TDC called on the govenment to deal with the “biggest shortage this school [year]”—the paltry salaries of the country’s 800,000 public school teachers.

They pointed out that the entry-level salary at public schools is P20,754, which they noted President Duterte has failed to raise despite repeated promises.

Message for students

For the students, the Catholic Church has a message: study well, stay safe, and be simple so as not to waste the sacrifices of their parents.

“Study to be successful as they dream it for you. Attend classes and do not skip. Make them happy and bring honors to them,” said Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, head of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. —WITH A REPORT FROM JOVIC YEE

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TAGS: ACT, Alliance of Concerned Teacher, Back to School, DepEd, Leonor Briones, school opening 2019, TDC, Teachers Dignity Coalition
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