AS public schools open to about 24.5 million learners tomorrow, also World Teachers’ Day, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Sunday pressed for an increase in the teachers’ allowance, currently pegged at P3,500 a year as chalk allowance, that they can use for either Internet or production of modules.
“Bukas, sabay-sabay bubunuin ng mga teacher, parents, at syempre ng mga students ang pag-aaral sa panahon ng COVID. Kakaiba ang tipo ng pagtuturo at pagtuto ang mangyayari kaya kailangang suportahan natin ang isa’t isa (Tomorrow, teachers, parents, and of course students will face learning in the time of COVID. The type of teaching and learning will be very different so we need to support each other),” Pangilinan said.
“Our teachers are again going out of their way to reach and connect and share knowledge with their students. While they used to spend their own money for their students’ notebooks and other school supplies, now they are chipping in their own money to buy printers to reproduce modules. Together with alumni, they are also helping collect donations for bond paper for the printing of modules and also electronic tablets for the students,” he said.
Currently, the Senate is seeking to increase the teaching supplies allowance of public school teachers from P3,500 to P5,000. During the recent plenary debates on the measure, it has been noted that this proposed P1,500 increase may not be enough.
“Habang matapang na hinaharap ng ating mga Pilipinong guro ang pandemya para patuloy na mabigyang edukasyon ang ating mga anak, ipakita natin ang ating pasasalamat sa kanilang serbisyo at siguruhing sapat ang kanilang kita. Kailangan nating siguruhin na buo ang suporta ng pamahalaan habang nag-a-adjust tayo sa tinatawag na new normal sa ating education system (As our Filipino teachers brave the pandemic to continue providing education to our children, let us show our appreciation for their service by ensuring they get the compensation they deserve. We must ensure that teachers have the full support of the government in transitioning to this new normal in our education system),” Pangilinan said.
In a consultation with Aral Pilipinas, a group of education practitioners, parents, students, and development workers who advocate for the continuity of education in times of crises, it was learned that the current P15 billion programmed under the proposed DepEd budget for Flexible Learning Options is not enough.
According to Aral Pilipinas’ computations, about P67 billion is needed to print modules for at least half of the enrolled learners in public schools for School Year 2020-2021.
But given that modules reproduction for the first quarter is underway or hopefully finished by this time, a total of around P55 billion should be programmed under DepEd’s budget in the 2021 GAA under Flexible Learning Options specifically for the production and reproduction of learning materials. This means that an additional amount of at least P40 billion needs to be appropriated for the purpose.
“We support Aral Pilipinas’ proposal to increase the budget for Flexible Learning Option from P15 billion to P55 billion. The P40 billion additional budget will fully cover the production and reproduction of learning materials for K-12 for at least 50% of the enrolled learning population for the coming school year,” Pangilinan said.
At the same time, the senator said strict measures should be in place to ensure that health and safety protocols are observed during these interactions.
“Long before schools open, teachers have been going to schools to supervise in printing of modules and attending to preparations for the new academic year. With the adoption of blended learning in some schools, teachers are still required to regularly go out to distribute materials to the parents or guardians of students,” Pangilinan said.
“Dapat mahigpit na pinapatupad ang mga health at safety protocols. Dapat libre ang kanilang face masks, face shields, alcohol. Front-liner din ang mga teacher natin,” Pangilinan said.