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‘Chalk allowance’ gets blended with teachers’ new needs

MANILA, Philippines — Call it “chalk allowance” no more, since there’s now hardly any need for blackboards.

The Department of Education (DepEd) said the so-called chalk allowance given to teachers at the beginning of a school year would just be considered a form of cash allowance meant to help them meet the needs of the “blended learning’’ environment, or the mixed application of online and in-person class instruction.

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For the new school year opening on Aug. 24, the allowance is P3,500 per teacher.

In an order dated June 8, the DepEd said that “in the constant effort to capacitate and empower the teachers, the department … is continuously expanding their welfare and benefits through the grant of cash allowance to teachers, formerly known as the chalk allowance.”

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The money will be given to both “permanent and provisional teachers, including Alternative Learning System (ALS) mobile teachers and district ALS coordinators, in all public elementary, junior and senior high schools, and community learning centers, who are in service in DepEd for the current school year, and assigned with at least one teaching load.”

“[It] shall be used for the payment of … P3,500 per classroom teacher for every school year for the purchase of teaching supplies and materials,” the DepEd order added.

Doing the math

A total of P3.06 billion was released for this purpose to 874,676 teachers nationwide from May to July, it added.

Education Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla said: “The [allowance] shall cover the expenses of teachers for the purchase of teaching supplies and materials … for the implementation or conduct of various modes of learning delivery.”

But 57-year-old teacher Jack Bacabac of Quezon City Science High School did the math and wondered: “So if you’re going to divide the P3,500 [by] 10 months, that’s only P350 … for internet connectivity.”

In reality, he said, teachers like him need to buy a gadget and at least a pocket Wi-Fi for data connection that would cost them a minimum of P500 a month.

Lack of funds, resources

Bacabac said teachers needed to have at least two connections to ensure that online teaching would not be disrupted, given the slow internet service in the country.

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With the dry run for class opening set on Monday, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers of the Philippines (ACT) expressed concern over the country’s readiness to resume classes.

“Start with finally heeding our call to craft an education plan that is responsive to the needs and capacities of the people, and puts paramount regard to the health and rights of learners, teachers and staff,” ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio said on Saturday.

Necessary expenses

The group said the government had yet to address the lack of resources needed for the implementation of alternative teaching modalities.

Despite the release of the allowances, Sevilla said there was still no basis for the DepEd to provide teachers with internet or load allowance, expenses that the agency itself had described as “necessary.”

“We are still coordinating with DBM (Department of Budget and Management) on the adjustment and policy guideline that we can use to reprogram our plan and budget to accommodate funding for this need,” she said.

Citing these issues, ACT and other groups have called for the postponement of school opening.

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TAGS: 2020 school opening, Chalk Allowance, coronavirus pandemic coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, DepEd, Public School Teachers, teachers' allowance
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