Teachers’ protests greet start of classes
Protests against this year’s tuition increases and to demand higher salaries for teachers greeted the first day of school in central and northern Luzon on Monday.
In Baguio City, around 30 members of the Association of Concerned Teachers and the Kabataan partylist gathered outside the Baguio Post Office before noon to air their grievances about delayed pay hikes for public school teachers.
In Pampanga province, no public school teacher joined any protest action but they expressed support for higher pay in streamers that they put up around their schools.
In Bataan province, high school teacher James Pagaduan, national president of the Action and Solidarity for the Empowerment of Teachers, said teachers needed a better salary grade because “a noble profession deserves decent pay.”
But the first day of school was also a good day for Grade 5 pupil Aldrin Donceras in Sitio (sub-village) Madlum in Barangay (village) Sibul, San Miguel town, Bulacan province.
For the first time, Donceras and his schoolmates crossed a sturdy footbridge over Madlum River.
Donceras used to cross the river on a bamboo raft or by clinging to steel cables that they call a “monkey bridge,” which an Inquirer photographer documented last year.
Because of public reactions to the photographs, the Department of Public Works and Highways designed a 47-meter-long footbridge for the community, which the second district engineering office of Bulacan completed in time for the school opening.
“My father used to accompany us to school to ensure that we cross the river safely using the monkey bridge. This time, we can cross the river safely any time, especially when we have household chores,” Donceras said.
Laurena Ligon, Sibul village chair, said 20 elementary and high school students from Madlum cross the river daily.
The community, however, has kept the monkey bridge, which they offer to adventurous tourists for a P50 fee.
In the City of San Fernando, school opening day revealed that the trend in which students transfer from private schools to public schools continues at San Fernando Elementary School (SFES), the biggest public elementary school in Pampanga’s capital.
The shift was due to economic reasons, as public education is subsidized by the government.
At least 90 percent of 250 transferees came from private schools, said Evelyn Sawal, the principal. Sawal cited records showing that more than 8,000 pupils had enrolled from kindergarten to Grade 6 as of 1 p.m. on Monday.
The school has 130 classrooms, 14 of these newly built.
Sawal said the classroom-student ratio was 1:45 on average in Grades 1 to 4 and 1:60 in Grades 5 to 6.
To solve the problem of congestion, students study in two shifts from 6:30 a.m. to noon and from noon to 5:30 p.m.
On Monday, the provincial government began tracking the 21,000 malnourished grade school students in public elementary schools to provide them supplemental food, clean water and a deworming service, Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda said.
The provincial government spent P301.5 million for the construction and repair of 454 classrooms, 22 multipurpose covered courts, 40 toilets and 14,110 armchairs.
The Department of Education in Central Luzon is still consolidating data on the needs of public elementary and secondary schools in Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales, according to its regional director, Isabelita Borres.
In Ilocos Norte province, the school opening went without major problems, said Joel Lopez, assistant schools division superintendent.
Lopez said 170 new teachers were hired this year to augment the teaching pool in the province. Reports from Tonette Orejas, Carmela Reyes-Estrope and Greg Refraccion, Inquirer Central Luzon; and Jhoanna Marie Buenaobra and Leilanie Adriano, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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